We came into tonight’s League meeting with Dublin on a small wave of optimism. We left it crushed and broken following an utterly abject performance, which saw us beaten all over the field by a Dublin team shorn of several championship regulars. As reality checks go, this was as brutal and unforgiving as they come.
I’d had a good day up ’till this evening. I was out earlier on at a family event during the afternoon, where the beer and the wine flowed freely so swapping that for the car crash that unfolded in front of my eyes at Croke Park was, quite literally, a sobering experience.
This was the case right from the throw-in. Our more experienced line-up should have been able to set the tone in this contest but instead it was Dublin who grabbed the initiative and never let go of it.
They settled quickly, scoring the first two points of the game but then came the score that really put them in the driving seat. David Clarke – who had trouble with his restarts all evening – made a hash of his kick-out and quick as a flash Dublin pounced, Conor McHugh finishing the lightning fast thrust by palming the ball to the net.
Already on top and gaining in confidence all the while, Dublin made sure that we wouldn’t get a toe-hold in this contest. Every time we attacked they funnelled back in numbers – on more than one occasion pulling all fifteen back into their own half – and our attacking efforts continually broke down in such suffocating company.
The contrast between their ability to move the ball with confidence, the pass always finding the intended target, and our hit-and-miss approach, where several intended passes went straight to Dublin hands, was stark in that opening half. Little wonder, then, that half-time came without our having registered a single score from play. All we had to show for our efforts in the first half was two pointed frees from Cillian O’Connor.
By then, already seven points in arrears, it was fairly obvious how this one was going to finish up. What would have been good would to have seen some real fight in the team in the second half. Instead, it went from bad to worse after the break and, but for David Clarke’s incredible treble-save from the penalty spot, it would have been worse still.
In the end, Dublin strolled to a facile twelve-point win over a Mayo team that put in one of the worst performances the county has produced at Croke Park for quite a long time. We were second best in every department this evening and can have no complaints at all about the severity of the thumping we suffered.
It’s still only early March and so far too soon in the year to be drawing any hasty conclusions about how we’re shaping up. We’ve had bad results in spring before and have come back strong in the summer. I’ve no doubt but that we’ve the capability to do so again this year.
What tonight’s horrendous performance demands, however, is a reaction. Tactically, for sure, we need to wise up and fast. In every match so far in this League campaign we’ve been repeatedly cut open at the back and, in the three matches we’ve left to play before the championship gets going, we need to sort this problem and fast.
But, perhaps more importantly, we need to see a response in terms of performance. Tonight’s display was simply shocking and a significant improvement needs to happen when we face Cavan in two weeks time. On tonight’s showing, that match could well now decide our fate in Division One but, whatever about that, it also affords the team the chance to show that they’re not as bad as they looked tonight. This is a chance that Stephen Rochford and his team simply have to grasp with both hands.
Tonight’s hiding leaves us wounded and will do nothing about our confidence to do the business against Dublin farther down the line this year. Right now, though, we’ve no call even to be thinking about such a possible challenge. We need to get our act together and bring some order to this topsy-turvy League campaign. Starting with Cavan in two weeks time.
Mayo: David Clarke; Lee Keegan, Keith Higgins, Paddy Durcan; Stephen Coen (0-1), Colm Boyle (0-1), Donal Vaughan; Jason Gibbons, Tom Parsons (0-1); Fergal Boland, Kevin McLoughlin, Diarmuid O’Connor; Evan Regan (0-2, frees), Cillian O’Connor (0-2, frees), Andy Moran. Subs: Conor Lofts for Regan (blood), Brendan Harrison for Gibbons, Shane Nally for Vaughan (black card), Conor Loftus for Diarmuid O’Connor, Danny Kirby for Boland.
Man of the Match poll:
Who was our MOTM against Dublin?
- David Clarke (56%, 309 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (8%, 42 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (7%, 38 Votes)
- Fergal Boland (5%, 25 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (4%, 23 Votes)
- Patrick Durcan (4%, 22 Votes)
- Danny Kirby (4%, 20 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (3%, 15 Votes)
- Evan Regan (2%, 11 Votes)
- Andy Moran (2%, 10 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (2%, 9 Votes)
- Tom Parsons (1%, 8 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (1%, 5 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (1%, 5 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (1%, 3 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (0%, 2 Votes)
- Jason Gibbons (0%, 2 Votes)
- Conor O'Shea (0%, 2 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (0%, 1 Votes)
- Shane Nally (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 553