Picking up the pieces

Photo: Louis Gunnigan

I’m back, a bit frazzled after the wedding, truth be told, which was a lovely occasion held at an utterly original and unique venue. The only downer on the day was, of course, what I was hearing – only faintly, as the mobile coverage was very poor where I was located – in the dispatches from Castlebar.

Before talking about what the result of yesterday’s game means for us, though, I want to salute guest contributor Cian Mortimer who penned his first match report for the blog last night. I think you’ll agree with me that he did so in an impressive, no-nonsense manner.

I know from bitter experience just how hard it can be to get the words to flow in any kind of coherent manner after a game in which the result doesn’t go the desired way. I can, then, appreciate what a task Cian had when opening his laptop yesterday evening. Fair play to him, he carried it out with considerable aplomb and well done to him for that.

Well done to Roscommon too. God knows, they’ve suffered long and hard at our hands down the years and while last night’s result represents a calamitous setback for us, it marks a significant breakthrough for them. It’s only right and fair to congratulate them without reservation on their fine win and to wish them well in the Connacht final, which I’m happy to do on both counts.

From our perspective, of course, last night was a veritable car crash. I didn’t see the game myself but I’ve had a fair few chats about it since and have read all the post-match comments posted here. As a result, I’ve got, I think, a fairly good handle on what happened and why it did.

The ramifications of the defeat are profound and hugely sobering for us. Four years now without a Connacht final appearance – our worst run since we failed to contest a provincial decider for nine years between 1956 and 1963 – and yet another perilous qualifier campaign facing us.

I don’t know about the rest of you but, right now, I’ve got zero enthusiasm for the road that lies ahead of us. How far we get depends, in large part, on the draws (that’s only a plural, by the way, if we manage to progress from one round to the next) we pull and our stomach for the battles that lie ahead.

It’s not an easy road but it’s the route upon which our performance last night has now directed us. As I said in my pre-match post early yesterday morning – which now seems like an eternity ago – losing last night’s match was always going to have profound consequences. It’s now our fate that we’ll discover in the coming weeks just what this enormous setback will mean for us and our hopes of progression in this year’s Championship.

25 thoughts on “Picking up the pieces

  1. Yeah it’s not good, can’t dress it up any other way. The league result convinced us all we were further down the line than we actually were. It’s only the day after but I’m looking forward to the qualifiers about as much as I’m looking forward to going to work in Athlone tomorrow with aload of tribes men and rossies who I’ve no doubt will enjoy sticking the boot in.

  2. Willie Joe, Never easy, especially after a wedding. Hope you enjoyed the wedding anyhow, you should enjoy everything you can in Life…We certainly enjoyed the League Final win, and it was great at the time, we were right to celebrate it and enjoy it… We just never know when or indeed if we will be enjoying a big victory with Mayo…. Just like the defeats to Galway, three years running, and again last night… I am certain that we have and had all the ingredients for us to win those games….Self inflicted wound’s …. Yesterday…It was a number of thing’s, that were self inflicted, that were going wrong from early on… But our men on the sideline,seemed completely oblivious to a number of thing’s…. almost to the point of being disengaged…. Cunningham and Roscommon came to Castlebar with a battle plan… Mayo’s supremacy in midfield definitely wasn’t part of that plan…. But the old adage ‘Posession is 9/10 of the Law’ didn’t hold water last evening. . Connor Cox had a very good game for Roscommon and his efficiency at score taking was first class… However he was lucky that the Ref didn’t spot a nasty punch to the kidney of Mathew Ruane, close to the sideline, stand side in the first half… The Rossies are well capable of beating Galway, if they can improve massively on winning primary possession, I too wish them well, but Galway won’t make the same mistake’s Mayo made last night.

  3. Credit to Roscommon, they came with a plan, executed it, and got the result they deserved.
    Atrocious is the word that comes to my mind in describing the performance of the Mayo team and management. The Mistakes, the choices players made, the shooting and the timing of substitutions, atrocious, sums it all up.
    Going forward, Horan has a huge choice to make, give the new players, more opportunity, or gang in with the old reliables.
    Ruane and Coen, though he did tire and could have been substituted earlier, came away from the game with a lot of credit. Worrying that so many of our experienced players had such an off night. Higgins, Barrett, Doherty, McLoughlin, to mention a few, could all have been substituted.
    I don’t think they can be left on the field because of what they have done in the past.
    The result, the prospect of back door qualification, has taken the wind out of your sails, bolstered by the fact we are league champions
    Big calls to be made as we go forward…

  4. A few thoughts on yesterday’s match.

    The majority of the blame for the loss lies with the management team and Horan in particular. For example, taking off Regan (assuming he wasn’t injured), not taking off Kevin or Jason, and bringing on Andy with nearly 30 minutes remaining is a border-line sackable offence on its own. It left Mayo with no decent free taker from right side and in such a tight game it cost Mayo big time with the misses that Doherty and Kevin had. It speaks volumes about the lack of scoring talent in Mayo that Andy is considered for anything more than 10 minutes at this stage in his career.

    Lot of comments on the keeper. @MayoMark you are regular poster here and obviously a big Mayo fan but your love of Clarke is blinding your ability to see why managers pick Hennelly so often. You say multiple times you don’t know why they do but the simple answer is despite Clarke being the best shot-stopper the game has ever seen his kickouts are like watching a keeper from the 70s on a re-run of All Ireland Gold on TG4. Hennelly is miles better at kick-outs and that’s why he gets picked. Eg. the KO early on to Ruane is a case in point, excuse the pun. Yes, even if he is likely to have a brain-fart every 7 or 8 matches. Also, anyone’s analysis of the match just focusing on the keeper is seriously missing the bigger picture.

    Hopefully, Mayo will get soft draws in the qualifiers but even if they do the next time they come up against a D1 or D2 side the problem of scoring will rear it’s head again. This is Horan’s biggest problem. It also shows the worth of Cillian, just in case some commentators thought he might be over rated or whatever they call him. He, along with Aidan, are utterly vital to any chance Mayo have. Just on Aidan, it’s only been the league and one game against Ross but he is playing some amazing football at midfield.

  5. The silence speaks for a lot of us. Mayo have ridden the tight rope too often and fallen too frequently for me to muster energy or enthusiasm for the battle ahead. Can’t imagine it’ll be easy but if a few younger lads are allowed to show their pedigree, maybe, just maybe the sap might rise. I’m sick of our yo-yo progress. Mayoyo maybe suits our performance better. I live in hope.

  6. Fast forward 24 hours to process what happened.

    We lost.

    Must move on now and can’t change it but reset and go in the qualifiers.

    The goal remains the same for the team and squad plus management and us as fans. Win get damn thing.

    Would I prefer if it was easy, more straightforward and less frantic, of course I would. This however is Mayo, thinking back to ’89 to 96, 97, 04, 06 and into this era when we not been dramatic and are a football story on a rollercoaster in Alice in Wonderland. That’s only the start of the story.

    Morning Ireland tomorrow and the draw I assume, who knows who’ll we get but I’m not going to give up.

    We had a poor day at the office, get over it and again move on.

    Leesons need to learned certainly.

    Up Mayo.

  7. I know this may not be the place to ask but my wife is a rossie and wondering where is the final gonna be? Still Pearse stadium?

  8. The problem with Higgins and Barrett isn’t that they’re over thirty or poor defenders, its that they were completely left exposed, by the lack of a defensive structure. Thats the real problem here, nothing to do with mileage or over the hill tripe. Cregg ran about 30 yrds with not a mayo defender in sight…..unforgivable. Barrett put it in one of the finest displays in the ‘17 final, because Rochford had protection around them and played a fairly evident rolling sweeper system. James underestimated Roscommon, and thought we’d outscore them, we did….but he’d never have thought they’d get 2 goals and we get none. We lost to an inferior team, who just had a far better system on the day, and got the bit of luck you need.

    Im optimistic about the qualifiers, Cillian will bring confidence to everyone if he returns, James Carr could back up his league final, a forward who can score of both feet (from distance)…and Darren Coen kind of announced himself last night. Had McGloughlin drawn the game, Coen would have been the m.o.t.m and everyone would be raving about him. We threw it away last night, where as in newbridge we were just out of steam from a long way out. Big difference.

  9. What are the chances now of Horan staying on for the full four year term? Will the CB have the desire to keep him on if we crash out in the next game or two? One thing for certain is that he is going to have to face into games like last nights with a much less experienced and less physically conditioned panel in 2020 and beyond which may or may not bode well in the short to medium term….who knows? I think it’s fair to say that we’ll quite likely see a good few of the great servants, especially those thirty somethings, step away from intercounty football in the ensuing months after this summers campaign has ended.

  10. The youngsters need to be given a chance now. Andy has been a great player and still has something to offer but not as first choice forward sub, it must be very demotivating for the likes of Treacy, Loftus etc to be brought on so late

  11. Horan will definitely be there for the full term – I’ve yet to see a successful football team that changes managers every year .

  12. I don’t feel very optimistic about the qualifiers. I just think there are a lot of problems there that can’t be solved in time and it’s a lot of games in quick succession. You wouldn’t know if some members of the squad even have the stomach for it anymore. Can see us getting caught out again tbh.

  13. My admiration for Clarke doesn’t blind anything. I am aware that the weakest part of his game is restarts. The old chestnut of him being a good shot stopper, as if that’s the only two elements of goal keeping – shot stopping and kick outs.

    As I said before there isn’t a single facet of the game Clarke is weaker than v Robbie. That has been proven, to our detriment, on multiple occasions. Here we are having this bloody conversation again. And we are out on our holes from connacht. Were we good enough last night? No. Would we have won if Clarke starts? In my view, there is no doubt about that.

    And if we keep making the same mistake, we will lose again at some stage because of it. It’s astonishing at this stage that there is even an argument

  14. I think last night is still a bit raw to the extent that I’m going to give the Sunday Game a wide berth tonight! I feel we went into this game a bit undercooked on the fitness and the sharpness stakes – we took a gamble that it might still be enough to beat Roscommon and that we would peak for either the Connacht final or the super 8s. We regularly did this in Horan’s first stint in charge of Mayo and comfortably got away with it as back then no other team in Connacht came anywhere near for quality. Times have changed I’m afraid and both Galway and Roscommon have now closed that gap making Connacht one of the most competitive provinces. This means we must peak sooner to win Connacht which has put both Galway and Roscommon as Connacht champions at a considerable disadvantage later on. (We blew the Rossies away in the 2017 QF and Galway got nowhere either). Our style needs to change to cope with the demands of winning Connacht and having enough in the tank for later in the season or this is gonna keep happening. Call me insanely optimistic but I would not be surprised if we go further this year than the Rossies in the end!

  15. The best thing I’ve seen here in the past 24 hours is “Mayoyo”. That’s gallows humour at it’s best. On we go. The Quest continues. We’ll get there, no worries.

  16. If we had snuck a win would we really be in a good place with just 70mins before the super 8’s?

    3 games all of which we should win with the likes of Cian Hanley, Vaughan, Cillian, Loftus and maybe even Parsons getting game time, our 15 and 5 subs will surely be a lot stronger going into a game which will now be away to either Kerry/Dublin/Tyrone or Galway possibly.

    I wouldn’t fancy Kerry welcoming us after not having a game. Losing with 15 wides is probably the best way to lose in a strange way. With all the new players this could be a good thing for momentum.

  17. Source of the robe A National Title called the National League Champions for 2019 would you believe. We have also played top teir football for the last 22 years. We got 5 Connacht titles in a row recently until everyone told us that the Nestor cup didn’t count anymore.

  18. MayoDunphy some good points there. Two I was saying myself to a friend earlier. The annoying thing about the 1st goal wasn’t so much that Higgins was beaten but rather than cregg ran unchallenged 20 metres or so and not a mayo defender close to him. Absolutely shocking team defending. Our defensive shape was so bad last night it was negligent.

    Another good point and one that makes the defeat harder to take is that we lost to a team that aren’t as good as us but their plan worked. It’s a point I made last night and I was accused of being bitter when really I’m just calling it as I see it. We lost to a mediocre roscommon team who took every chance going including being offered heaps of space when attacking us, because our defensive system (If we had one) failed.

    I made a point on another thread. This Mayo squads strengths are in defending. Our players don’t suit an ‘all out attack’ approach. We have the players to become the best counter attacking team in the country but we don’t play to our strengths and never have done aside from the 16 and 17 finals where we utilised a defensive counter attacking system which got us as close to glory as we’ve gotten in decades.

    Unless we play to our strengths then this Mayo team haven’t a hope of winning an All Ireland. The cavalier attacking press we utilise has become so predictable that opposing managers only have to drop their team back into its own half when we have possession knowing we haven’t the forwards to break them down, then they hit us on the break. Just like last night but it’s happened to us the last few years in connacht and it’ll happen again.

  19. Mayo67.
    You are quite correct when you say we won the league. Great. We were also shocked and poxed lucky to get into that league final. We also sang very well in Times Square. But when it comes to the serious stuff…..
    Dublin didn’t win the league. But we won’t be the team to stop them winning their fifth All Ireland Final.

  20. Good post Mayonaze – indeed all your contributions since the game have been fair and insightful.

  21. For the past few years i’v e been rooting for a forward coach. Even James after the game talked about our number of wides. So if you have a problem you do something about it. When is he going to take a forward coach on board. Each season Jim Gavin freshens his backroom team. Jason Sherlock has certainly helped the Dubs eradicate the number of wides that lost them so many games in the past.
    Also I don’t know who the team psychologist is but we’d need to look at that aspect of our games preparation. It was like being back in Newbridge right from the throw-in. The Rossies were full of intensity while our men were devoid of spirit . Was it complacency that permeated their performance?
    Finally let’s freshen up the rest of our backroom team and please haave all angles covered BEFORE the next game. The manager should be responsible for spelling out each player’s duties so that we don’t have a repeat of that fiasco
    that saw Diarmuid take the ball from Loftus and give it to McLoughlin who is not a freetaker. Neither is he a corner forward. Some of his best games have been as a sweeper around midfield.

  22. Mayonaze, you are spot on. Our most threatening line of attack for the last fifteen years has been our half-back line.

  23. “Hennelly’s kickouts are miles better”

    Jesus wept.

    The man’s kick outs have been picked off for crucial goals and points in several big games in recent years- Galway 2016, Dublin replay 2016, Roscommon 2019. These are all games we lost narrowly.

    Clarke’s restarts may well hang a bit too high at times, but I struggle to remember him being directly at fault for many goals in the way Robbie has been. And that’s before we consider his far superior shot-stopping ability and composure under high ball.

    I don’t want to get back into the great goalkeeper debate at length, ascribe the entire blame for this defeat to one player or start beating up on Hennelly, who at the end of the day is a GAA volunteer like many of us. But some of ye seemingly only see what you want to on this question.

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