Kingdom game coming into view

Photo: MichaelMaye.com

We’re now only a few days away from this weekend’s NFL Round 6 clash with Kerry so it’s time to turn the focus in that direction. This fixture – which is already a sell-out but will be broadcast live by Eir Sport – takes place at Austin Stack Park in Tralee on Saturday night, where throw-in is 7pm. The match will be reffed by Fermanagh’s Niall Cullen.

We’ve seen plenty of Kerry in recent years, though our sole meeting with them last year – that NFL Round 2 fixture at Castlebar, which they won by three points – contrasts with the three matches we played them in back in 2017. That year we beat them in Tralee in the League and then played out those two enthralling All-Ireland semi-final matches against them in August, snatching a late, late equaliser the first day before eventually sweeping them away by five points in the replay.

But that was then. Since our last meeting a bit over a year ago Kerry played out an up-and-down League campaign, in which they ended up mid-table with six points, having won three and lost four of their Division One matches.

They went into last year’s spring campaign as the defending League champions but – in marked contrast to this year – they never really got going at all. Victories over Donegal and us were followed by defeats to Monaghan and Galway, after which they suffered a trimming in Croke Park against Dublin. A Round 6 win over Kildare ensured that relegation wouldn’t be a concern to them going into the last round but it was just as well, as they lost that day too, going under to Tyrone in Omagh.

By contrast, the Munster Championship – now, sadly, as moribund these days as its Leinster equivalent – was a doddle for them. Clare were swatted aside by 0-32 to 0-10 in the semi-final before Cork were ruthlessly dispatched by 3-18 to 2-14 in the final. It was Kerry’s sixth Munster crown in a row, their 80th in total.

Having such an easy passage into the All-Ireland Series can, however, be a drawback. Galway looked way more up for the battle when the two counties met in Phase 1 of the Super 8s at Croke Park last July, the Tribesmen eventually recording their first Championship win over Kerry since the Sixties, coming out on top by 1-13 to 1-10.

Monaghan came close to finishing Kerry off a week later in Clones. But for a late virtuoso goal by David Clifford, the Farneymen would have made history by beating Kerry for the first time ever in the Championship. That late goal saw the game finish in a 1-17 apiece stalemate.

This meant Kerry went into Phase 3 with their Championship destiny out of their hands. They needed Galway to beat Monaghan to ensure that their victory over Kildare in Killarney would send them into the semi-finals. Kerry beat Kildare alright – in a 3-25 to 2-16 shootout – but Monaghan’s win in Pearse Stadium meant that the Kingdom were out, in the process becoming the first ever county to exit the Championship with a win.

Kerry’s Super 8 elimination meant that, for only the third time since 2000, the county failed to make it to the final four in the Championship. It was little surprise, then, when Eamon Fitzmaurice announced straight after the Kildare match that he was stepping down as manager. His departure was followed in time by several of the old guard, Kieran Donaghy, Darran O’Sullivan, Donnchadh Walsh and Anthony Maher among them.

This meant that new boss – the former All-Ireland Minor winning manager Peter Keane – had no option but to go with youth this year. You’d have to admit that it’s a policy which, so far at least, is working well.

With Kerry legend Maurice Fitzgerald as well as Donie Buckley – a man whose talents we can all attest to and who contributed so much to us while he was in our camp in recent years – in his backroom team, Peter Keane’s young Kerry side have blazed an impressive trail in this year’s League campaign.

Photo: Irish Independent (Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile)

Five wins from five leave Kerry on top of the table, already all but guaranteed of a place in the Division One decider at the end of the month. Dublin are their likely opponents there but if we manage to pull off an improbable win the next night in Tralee and then follow that up with a victory over Monaghan in the final round we could be in the shake-up for a final place ourselves.

Kerry’s 100% record in this year’s League comprises wins over Tyrone in Killarney (0-11 to 0-7), Cavan in Breffni Park (0-16 to 0-13), Dublin in Tralee (1-18 to 2-14), Galway in Tuam (0-14 to 1-10) and Monaghan back at Fitzgerald Stadium (0-17 to 0-13). Two wins by four points, another one by three and two by a single point – none of these were big margin wins but they were all wins and it’s perhaps more impressive that such a fresh-faced line-up has proven itself capable of grinding out results in close matches week after week.

Which, I guess, underlines the nature of the task facing our lads at Austin Stack Park on Saturday night. Having gone under in deflating circumstances to Dublin and then to Galway in the previous two rounds, the gloss from those opening two wins – over Roscommon and Tyrone – has certainly dulled significantly.

The bookies view this one as a home team banker, with Paddy Power pricing Kerry at 4/9 to prevail. What do you think of them apples? Let’s end with a vote to see what the mood is on our side of the fence for the trip south this weekend.

How will we do against Kerry?

  • Lose (53%, 314 Votes)
  • Win (36%, 212 Votes)
  • Draw (11%, 65 Votes)

Total Voters: 591

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Looking for tickets for the match in Tralee, with overnight accommodation there too? Play the Mayo GAA Lotto this week – details here.

55 thoughts on “Kingdom game coming into view

  1. Willie Joe, I do not think you can say that we will make the final instead of Dublin.
    Assuming both Dublin and Mayo win their remaining games and Kerry win their last game Dublin will go through on head to head and most probably scoring difference. If both Mayo and Dublin win and Kerry lose, it could be Dublin Mayo final. A three way tie would make scoring difference determine placings. Neither of those scenarios factor Galway’s potential to progresss.

  2. Its all about Pride on Saturday night next in Tralee. This is the type of game that every Mayo player should be chomping at the bit to play in. Lets stand up to these Kerry boys and tear into them from the start. Lets put Pride back into Mayo football and play our socks off. We are better than our performances against Dublin and Galway. We have a good blend now of young players Ruane, Mc Donagh, Plunkett and Reape give them all a start JH now is their TIME. These lads mixed with our older Warriors will truly be a handful to Kerry.
    Even if we dont win lets go out and leave everything on the field put some Pride back in ourselves. Move the ball quickly, stop slowing the play and win our kick outs. Shoot on sight and no stupid fouling. Lets get guys running off the shoulder and start the game at pace running at that Kerry defence they wont like it. IMO Team to play Kerry
    Hennelly
    Barrett Harrisson Coen
    Keegan Plunkett Durcan
    Ruane AOS
    Mc Loughlin O Connor (Capt) Higgins
    Mc Donagh Reape Doherty

    Safe travelling to all on the roads.

    Go neirigh an tadh le Mhuigheo.

  3. Unless we can up our performance levels substantially from where we were at for the previous two games, we will get our arse’s handed to us on a plate on Saturday night. This young Kerry outfit bullied us all over the field in Castlebar last year – are our lads going to allow that to happen for a second year in a row ?

  4. Mayo die hard there will be an announcement on the Mayo day Jersey going on sale in the next few days.

  5. That is, of course, correct, Near Hand In. For some reason I’d overlooked the fact that both ourselves and Dublin had lost twice to date. I’ll amend the post accordingly.

    Pat – you don’t need to print a ticket for this game, just bring your season ticket card with you to be scanned at the entrance.

  6. We are in a great position if Galway beat ros earlier in the day . Absolutely nothing to lose if that were to be the case, take the shackles off , go for goals , be bold , keep shooting all night .

  7. Every day you are fortunate enough to be given a Mayo Jersey you should wear it with pride in my opinion the last two games we played that pride or hunger didn’t appear to be there.We have to trust our manager and hope he has a plan up his sleeve leaving the Dublin game aside the performance against Galway in my opinion was as poor as I’ve seen from our beloved in years I was so disappointed that I cancelled my accommodation in Tralee now call me a fair weather supporter or any name going but to me the effort on the pitch and on our sideline was way below what I have come to expect from these great men that have given me my best days supporting the red and green in over 40+ years.

  8. Would like to see

    Hennelly
    O Donoghue Harrison Drake
    Keagan Plunkett Durcan
    Ruane. AOS
    McDonagh Mcloughlin o Connor
    Diskin Carr Coen
    Subs
    Higgins Boyle Vaughan Doherty Moran Reape

    Coen taking the Frees, I thing Jason Doherty has played every game so far including FBD could do with a rest probably won’t happen. Few others need game time. Mcloughlin at CHF would help to get the ball in quicker to the Full forward line.

  9. A man with a great love of life in general and especially football. Many’s a long conversation I have had with him about football – club and county. Deepest sympathies to Ann and family.

  10. Rest in Peace ‘Black Tom’. One of life’s good guys. A dedicated club and county man but first and foremost, a honest Irish gentleman that loved his family beyond reproach. He will be sorely missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anaim.

  11. Rip Tom freeman deepest sympathy to Ann and all the freeman family and family taughts and prays with ye all at this sad time ?

  12. Sad to hear of the death of Tom Freeman RIP. Tom and I had many a wonderful conversation about footballing matters and we shared a common feeling about
    things on private matters. To his wife Ann and his sons may the Good Lord have a place for him to rest in peace. I will miss meeting you my friend.

  13. I see 52% or thereabouts going for a Mayo win – what planet are you people on I ask? Poor showing v Dublin and seemed clueless against Galway when it came to the business end of the match. Based on our last two outings anyway, it seems that beating this Kerry team in there home patch is not a realistic proposition. Yes, it would be great if we could pull it off, but in my opinion, this seems a bridge too far and in this regard, I’d happily settle for a really good performance and build some confidence for our final match v Monaghan.

  14. If we pick a genuinely big physical team with a lot of experience and some youthful pace then I think we can beat Kerry. However we have to get our defensive match ups right in terms of man marking and not just leaving big open spaces in front of our goals. In the middle then I’d love to see Matthew Ruane and Diarmuid.
    I’d drop back Aidan for the full match as a 6.5 extra centre back. Tralee is a tight ground and we dont want to leave our centre exposes to Kerrys pacey runners or their rangey athletic taller runners.
    Everyone picked on Saturday night has to be able to knock his man backwards in the tackle. If not we are just needlessly giving over advantage to the opposition. It’s such a psychological and tactical backwards step to start lads that you know are giving up several kilos and power to their opposite number. That has to stop in terms of selection. From what I have seen the three young players who have the necessary power and skills at this stage are Michael Plunkett, Matthew Ruane and Brian Reape. Not a criticism of the other young players added in, just the reality that they are neither heavy enough nor strong enough yet. The key thing being Yet, they got plenty game time but it really is time to start sharpening up our starting 15 for the Connaught championship. Are we seriously going to tog against Roscommon and Galway with clearly lighter players in some positions? It would make no sense.

  15. BTW if fit would love to see Eoin O’Donoghue and David Drake in our full backline for the same reasons outlined above and their eye towards good tight man marking.

  16. JohnMcHale..No harm for 52 % of supporters having a bit of optimism or blind faith is there??After all its Mayo and anything could happen..Find it hard to recall a worst first half than the Galway game recently where I genuinely thought we looked like a group thrown together for a Saturday night kickabout..Things can only get better surely??!!

  17. John McHale it’s 52% to lose against Kerry and 37% for a win. I would love to think the 52% will be wrong but realistically I’m thinking they’ll more than likely be right. However if the boys go out there and play with pride and passion like they are capable of then who knows what might happen. Maigheo Abú

  18. Usually id say we haven’t a chance in this one, but I’ve a sneaky feeling we’ll nick this. I’ve no logic as to why, and if paddy power gave me a 1000euro free bet id lamp it on the yerras, but I just see us winning this one. It would be a typical Mayo thing to do.

  19. There are a few youngsters we have not seen little or nothing of yet and I think think this would be a good opportunity to play them. McDonagh would benefit from a rest and bring him back fresh for Monaghan game. Treacy, McCormack, Plunkett and Drake could all do with starrts. I wouldn’t mind either to see Coen getting the nod over Reape.
    I’m not at all convinced AOS has the pace to command chb. He’d be there to be roasted and kerry would not be slow to take advantage of his shortcomings. I know he did a good marking job on plough horse Donaghy, but a nifty chf would be too hot to handle. I’d like to see AOS taking a few pots at the posts and scoring a few points.
    Valuable experience for the younsters and back to winning ways against Monaghan….

  20. Don’t see why you would “rest” certain players this weekend. It’s 2 weeks since our last game so fatigue won’t be an issue. As JP said, we should be narrowing down our team selections to potential championship starters. Plunkett, Ruane and McDonagh fit that category IMO so I’d be starting them. I’d like to see Drake and O’Donoghue as well.

  21. We have 2 games left before the Connacht championship. Does james use this as another opportunity to try out some new players or is it time to start putting the pieces together in terms of a starting championship 15? Considering that we may well be safe by the time we take to the field on Saturday I think it will be a mix of both. If I was to pick the newbies I’d like to start Championship it would be plunkett, Ruane, mcdonagh, reape but looking at the teams Horan’s has picked so far it looks like mcdonagh May be the only one he’s sure of. I’d therefore like the see all 4 mentioned start the next 2 games to give them a chance to secure a starting place. I don’t understand why o’donuhue hasn’t seen more game time but I think unless he starts the next 2 games I fear for his chances.

  22. When I mention Aidan around the centre back area I only mean where he performs like in the 2012 semi v Dublin or in the league in 2015 in Kerry where he came on and stationed himself there and turned the game. Aidans most effective and consistent football has been back as a second centre back stopping big runners coming down our centre. He doesn’t track a particular player, he just closes off our centre and is one of the best in the country at it.
    The Galway and Dublin games informed me clearly the Fionn McDonagh isn’t there yet strength wise to be starting. He has to be a sub looking towards championship.

  23. I can’t make the Kerry game unfortunately, so my season tickets could help to get a good loud Mayo man or woman or child in to roar on the lads.
    Maybe WJ could facilitate a swap or something?

  24. If we’re blooding young players then we have to keep playing them. Not only for the league but right in to the championship. It’s no use in giving them game time in the league and then sidelining them for the real stuff. If James is planning on putting a new team together then he has to stick with the young guns. If they are young and showing potential now is the time to let them play. Otherwise it’s back to the trying them out again in the 2020 league and puts the whole development back by 10 months.

  25. i would go with

    Clarke

    O Donoghue Harrison Barret

    Vaughan

    Higgins Coen Mclaughlin

    Durcan, DOC, Ruane, Keegan

    Doherty

    AOS Reape

  26. @jp. I don’t think Aiden is the tidiest of tacklers, but I agree he should be given a free role to get stuck in where he is needed.
    I think McDonagh will make it this year, but agree with you he has a bit to do on the physical side of things. Just think a rest now would sharpen his hunger. There are others that need a chance to be assessed at top level. O’Donaghue, McCormack, Treacy….. Definitely Plunket needs more time against top opposition. Showing promise but need to see more of him…

  27. Right on, ForTheLoveof Mayo, 52% for to lose makes more sense but even 37% expecting a win is a bit optimistic. But heck, who am I to question the wisdom or other of our faithful followers.

  28. Anyone flying with Norwegian over to mayo game here in May might wanna try get money back and book delta or Aer Lingus,as from now the 2 planes Norwegian have are off duty cause off recent crashes on 2 similar new boeing jets,all flights cancelled until further notice from steward in New York
    Just a heads up

  29. Deepest Sympathy to the Freeman family. I had some dealing with Tom in the past and them started to meet him at Mayo games. A gentleman

  30. I’ve no faith in Mayo to win this weekend or to score more than 10 or 12 points because of their reluctance or inability to take shots from distance and score. This lateral passing and bringing the ball into the tackle and then getting injured a la Evan Regan in the Cavan game i think it was and losing possession wrecks my head why don’t they have a go from
    40 yards out what’s the worse that could happen

  31. I feel your pain Backdoorsam, especially with the wind on their backs they seem reluctant to shoot from distance like if they never practice or don’t possess that skill.

  32. I’m a mayo man living in London hoping to go to the game on saturday , would love to hear from anyone who might have a spare , am travelling anyway! Thanks in advance WJ for use of a fine blog?

  33. @Centrefield. I would have hoped to be seeing more new faces on your team.
    Ruane and Reape seem to be the only 2 newbies on your team there.
    Last year Rochford was getting slated for not trying out enough new talent and yet he would have had James Durkan and Hanley playing right in to the championship.
    I think we should go with our young prospects and take our lumps in this years championship. I think we would see the benefits down the road in the coming years.
    Hopefully we are safe now in the league. It’s time to throw the young lads in at the deep end. Like I said, it might not be pretty this year but think it would really develop them for the years ahead.
    We have to look way further down the road than this year’s championship.

  34. I’m afraid I have to agree with above. Our forward play pans out laterally at the ’40’ and though we create half chances we are not putting away enough of them.
    we live in hope and I am hoping we see some improvement tactically this weekend, some variation in our play. We need a target focal player in ff line imo who can offer us an option of ‘ an modh díreach ‘.
    Not creating goal chances is a worry. This lateral built up gives time for defences to organise in a zonal fashion and snuff out goal scoring opportunities.
    We can expect Kerry to be on a part with Dublin, maybe even hungrier, so another yardstick game for us..

  35. Not taking shots from distance isn’t the problem. By definition you’re less likely to score from further out. We took on several stupid shots against Dublin and Galway which is why we had so many wides. Dublin almost never take on long range shots.

    The key is having good passing and movement so the forwards get the ball in some space around the D area. We had that against Tyrone.

  36. Our half backline are not comfortable with kickpassing the ball into our forward that is the problem. When you have Donal Vaughan selected then at midfield that problem is amplified. Matthew Ruane is still getting his confidence up in terms of kick passing the ball in. Mayo’s supposed strength of our hard running half backline is in many peoples views a weakness. The absence of Michael Plunkett from centre back and Diarmuid from midfield dropped our passing game way down in the last two matches. Our forwards can’t develop any run, gather, layoff type of game with a 5-11 of
    Durcan Boyle Keegan
    Vaughan Ruane
    AOS
    There is no noted kickpasser amongst those six players. We seen back in 2014 that the running halfbackline tactics had had their day.

  37. I would like to see AOS being selected back in a midfield position (with Ruane or DOC), personally I believe this is his best position, where he can influence the game most. IMO he is not a forward, never was and at this stage never will be, he just doesn’t affect the score board enough from a CHF position either in scores or assists. 2 points in 5 games where he has played every minute isn’t enough from that position. Play Aido in the middle where he can win primary possession, Play KMc at CHF who can distribute the ball quicker and score more regularly. I really believe this move will improve the team attacking wise.

  38. yea keep A O Shea in midfield and as the defending midfielder also back in his own square for 45s etc when needed. Two years ago when he was used as full back against Kerry our forwards played much better football and moved the ball into Andy at speed and he destroyed the Kerry full backline. Also keep him back when Mayo are attacking so he can break up any counter attack let Ruane and D O Connor along with Keegan and Durcan from defence do the running forward.

  39. @wide ball if you are building slowly and laterally, you are only going to be able to create chances at the 40, so you better be able to take them. My recollection of the Galway Game was that they were way superior at taking chances from distance with the wind than we were.
    As for the Dubs, they can mix long range point taking with going for the jugular and creating goal chances. They took us apart for fun, had Hennely not been in such inspired form, this would have been reflected in the scoreboard

  40. Why are we playing slowly and laterally? Too many players soloing and carrying the ball up the field. Kick passing is the fastest way to get our forwards possession in some space. That’s what we should be working on, not 40 yard shots which may not be possible depending on weather conditions.

    The biggest difference between us and Galway was the goal, scored from 2 metres out.

  41. @Wide Ball. We are playing slow and lateral due to the selection of players not comfortable with kickpassing whilst on the run in positions 5,6,7,8 and 9. The 2017 semi final victory over Kerry, key to that win was Chris Barrett at centre back. He made several long kick passes up the wings that resulted in several scores.
    I fail to see the benefit of reverting to a hard running halfbacks game. It has already been proven to be past it’s sell by date. We need a very strong Plan A game for the Connaught championship and we have just two competitive games left to put it in place, something more akin to how we played against Tyrone. Oh, woe betide me hang on, versus Tyrone Michael Plunkett was at 6 and Diarmuid O’Connor was at 8. Our kickpassing game has vanished with them absent or moved from there. Vaughan 9, Leeroy 5, Boyler 6 and Keith Higgins 4, I’m sorry but they are preventing any ability to have a counter attacking kickpassing game when all four are selected as currently lined out.
    Leeroy tends to run hard at the wing, get closed down and turn very obviously back and handpass it back or sideways. Donal Vaughan has been taking the ball into traffic and either overcarrying (free out) or losing the ball.

  42. Some interesting discussion here,

    Have to agree with the observations from culmore, jp and others around the achilles heal that is our half forward line.
    We have gotten away with this for years because our strength has always been attacking, line breaking halfbacks like leroy, durcan and higgins.
    We are badly lacking in a creative, kick passing player in the middle 3rd. I dont know who that is though, Loftus is the best kickpasser but too inconsistent.

    He seems to poll very highly on all the motm polls on here for some reason but AOS is not a half forward, he carries zero scoring threat, few assists and slows down a lot of moves with lateral predicatable play, our best attacking performances in last 5 years were the 2 2017 games against kerry when that blockage wasnt there and quick ball was getting into andy and coc. AOS strengths are ballwinning and turnovers, the only position for him is no 8. Defensive midfielder.

    Would like to see something like the following for next few games

    Hennelly
    EOD
    Harrison
    Barrett

    Keegan
    Plunkett
    Durcan

    AOS
    Ruane

    DOC
    McDonagh

    Doherty
    McLoughlin

    Reape
    COC

  43. Have to agree with JP on the kick passing. It was a stong feature of Rochford’s style and it was why we very nearly reached the holy grail.
    The running Half back game is not going to be as effective as it was in 2014 when the same bunch of half backs were 5 years younger. Add to that, it left the full back line totally exposed too many times and god love him but poor auld Ger Cafferkey seems to have taken the brunt of peoples Ire – and very much unfairly so in my view – as a result of that.
    A new tactic is required, or a rehash of what has proven to be successful in the recent past.

  44. With the opposition being more athletic and stronger the game impact of running half backs is also reduced.
    Separate to that teams know how to deal with it by offering the wing back the sidelines where they are not effective and interfering with the runners who might come off the shoulder of the attacking wing back.
    Part of the original success of that tactic was that we were simply fitter than the opposition.

  45. In order for kick passing you need ball winners, target men that can win more than half the kick passes thrown at them. AOS our only ball winner and Andy Moran. Hopefully Diskin Reape Coen will become a target man and O’Connor when back.
    To me it’s a question of being able to mix the two approaches. Remember in a lot of cases our forwards are back defending and will not be available to take foot pass and move ball quickly
    There’s no getting away from chances being created out at 40 and we have to be able to take a good percentage of them.
    Anyway I hope to see some semblance of a target man up front and give us the option of foot passing.
    The biggest difference between Galway and Mayo is they are way cuter than us.

  46. Jason Doherty is an excellent ball winner as well. I don’t like the idea of Aidan O’Shea at full forward. He just doesn’t have the shooting ability or movement to win enough ball compared to Andy, Jason, Cillian and even Reape/Diskin/Coen.

    Galway were certainly cuter than us in the 2nd half. Their 3 half backs O’Donnell, Bradshaw and Daly held their position consistently. Don’t think any of them even went past halfway? With the result that their full back line were never exposed.

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