The night is pushing on, I’ve had a long day what with an U11 match up in Dublin this morning and then the drive west ahead of tonight’s rather elemental clash at MacHale Park. I’ve also got an early start in the morning to get back east for another match before midday there, so by necessity, this has to be a quick one.
The very short version is that we did way better than expected tonight but, in the end, didn’t do enough to claim the League points that were, for long stretches of the evening, tantalisingly on offer. The heart and conviction that was absent from our performance down at Páirc Uí Rinn last Sunday was evident in spades tonight but the battling performance the lads put in just wasn’t enough to carry the day. As a result, our long wait for a win over Dublin becomes that bit longer.
From the throw-in tonight – on a cold, wet and blustery night in Castlebar – it was clear that we were up for the battle. So too were Dublin and on a night of feisty exchanges Philly McMahon was ordered off on a black card with less than five minutes on the clock. The challenge for which he walked looked a bit reckless alright but I don’t think it was one of the specified black card offences.
Diarmuid O’Connor fisted over to open the night’s scoring but we spurned a number of chances to add to this, with the ball being sent into the inside line being very much of the low percentage variety.
Dublin took ten minutes to equalise – which they did via a Dean Rock free – and another ten to go ahead – a point from play from Diarmuid Connolly after Aidan O’Shea fumbled the ball close to our goal. We were back on terms quickly though, when Evan Regan was fed nicely by Jason Doherty and fired over.
At half-time we were a point down. Robbie Hennelly gave us the lead briefly with a marvellous ’45 driven over into the wind but they got one back from play and then Rock, with the wind at his back, pointed a ’45 with the last kick of the half.
We lost Tom Parsons to injury for the second half and although Jason Gibbons (who was named to start but didn’t, as Michael Hall – making his League debut – lined out instead) did well, we missed Tom’s presence in the second half.
With a strong wind behind our backs for the second period, our chances of upsetting those 1/4 odds looked okay at this stage and a glorious point from out the left wing from Diarmuid O’Connor gave us increased hope of doing so.
That was as good as it got, though, as Dublin roused themselves and three points in as many minutes – two from Rock frees, the other from play by McCarthy – gave them a cushion on which they were always able to rely thereafter. They resorted ever more to a strategy of keep-ball, circling incessantly around the middle third, throwing (often literally) the leather round, waiting for an opening to emerge.
We eventually pulled a point back from an Evan Regan free but our attacks never really had any potency and we never got a proper run at them. A point from sub Costello restored their three-point advantage with a bit over five minutes to go and while another Robbie boomer from a ’45 cut the gap to two, another Dublin point followed at the other end.
We had the final say on the scoreboard via another Evan Regan free but they had the final say as regards the result, prevailing in the end by two points.
On what really was a truly atrocious night for football, plenty of lads stood out for us. I thought Robbie did well – his kickouts were far more varied tonight and while a few of them went astray the conditions surely played some part in this. Ger Cafferkey was little short of magnificent, utterly nullifying Paddy Andrews, and Colm Boyle put in a wonderful battling performance (one that eventually saw him ordered off near the end on a second yellow, along with Dublin’s John Small who got a straight red, shortly after Jonny Cooper became the second Dublin player to walk on a black card).
Caolan Crowe, Shane Nally and Michael Hall all got a fairly full-throated introduction to high-level inter-county action, one that’ll have done them no harm at all.
On a tough night for forwards, I thought Conor O’Shea had an excellent first half while Diarmuid O’Connor drove us on repeatedly in the second half. Evan Regan did better than he’d done in Cork and will, I think, start to flourish in that spot as the days get longer.
It was great too to see Keith Higgins back in action. He got rightly stuck in after he came on for Michael Hall in the second half and we’ll be a whole load stronger with him on board over the coming weeks.
So although tonight we sit rooted at the bottom of Division One with no points from our first two games, it’s difficult not to feel a bit optimistic about how we’re starting to shape up. We showed a few hints tonight that there’s plenty of life yet in this team and I’d be happy enough that we’ll provide further and more compelling evidence of this sooner rather than later over the remainder of this League campaign.
Mayo: Robbie Hennelly (0-2, two ’45s); Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Caolan Crowe; Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle, Shane Nally; Tom Parsons, Michael Hall; Conor O’Shea, Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor (0-2); Evan Regan (0-3, two frees), Jason Doherty, Mikey Sweeney. Subs: Jason Gibbons for Parsons, David Drake for Vaughan, Keith Higgins for Hall, Cathal Carolan for Sweeney, Darren McHale for Conor O’Shea, Shane McHale for Nally.
Finally, commiserations to both Ardnaree and Hollymount/Carramore who lost out to strong Kerry opposition in their respective club All-Ireland finals at Croke Park today. They both enjoyed great campaigns in getting all the way to Croke Park but sadly shared the same heartbreak today. Both of them can rightly be very proud of their achievements in getting as far as they did and coming so close to ultimate glory.
Who was our MOTM against Dublin?
- Diarmuid O'Connor (38%, 105 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (29%, 80 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (11%, 29 Votes)
- Shane Nally (5%, 15 Votes)
- Robbie Hennelly (4%, 10 Votes)
- Tom Parsons (2%, 6 Votes)
- Conor O'Shea (2%, 5 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (1%, 4 Votes)
- Jason Gibbons (1%, 3 Votes)
- Mikey Sweeney (1%, 3 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (1%, 3 Votes)
- Shane McHale (1%, 3 Votes)
- Evan Regan (1%, 2 Votes)
- Cathal Carolan (0%, 1 Votes)
- David Drake (0%, 1 Votes)
- Caolan Crowe (0%, 1 Votes)
- Michael Hall (0%, 1 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (0%, 1 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (0%, 0 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (0%, 0 Votes)
- Darren McHale (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 273