Mayo’s scoring artillery doesn’t just rest with the forwards as defence chips in
‘And we do have lads who can do that, come from anywhere to score’
Mayo’s Colm Boyle played as a forward at under age level.
Now that they’ve assumed their starting positions and drawn their own battle lines the full scale of Mayo’s scoring artillery is apparent – or more specifically the full range of it.
They may only boast two extra scorers to Dublin from the five games they’ve each played on route to Sunday’s final showdown (Mayo’s total scorers numbering 18, to Dublin’s 16) and yet four of Mayo’s six defenders named to start have between them scored an impressive 2-15 (only 0-2 of which, by the way, came against London in the Connacht final).
These are, in no particular order, Donal Vaughan (2-2), Lee Keegan (0-7), Chris Barrett (0-3), and Colm Boyle (0-3), although both Keegan and Barrett emphasised their importance by scoring 0-4 against Tyrone, at a time when Mayo were finding scores hard to come by.
Dublin’s six defenders, in contrast (and excluding goalkeepers, given Stephen Cluxton has kicked 0-14 from placed balls), have so far contributed only 1-3, thanks to Jack McCaffrey (1-1), Ger Brennan (0-1) and Philip McMahon (0-1). More relevant, perhaps, is the fact that Mayo’s scoring rate from defenders is happening by design rather than accident, manager James Horan giving his defenders an open licence to attack, Sunday’s final in Croke Park presumably being no exception.
“Yeah, James likes to say that we should try to attack from anywhere, as long as someone is holding back,” says Boyle. “And we do have lads who can do that, come from anywhere to score. But it’s something we’ve worked on. To be able to do that doesn’t just come. You need a bit of extra physical fitness as well, to be able to do that.
“But we’d be conscious enough as well that someone has to sit back. Maybe Leroy (Lee Keegan) and Donie (Donal Vaughan) are a bit more attacking than I am, but I think we have a fairly good mix on it. We always make sure someone is back there.”
Indeed Boyle, fittingly enough, played most of his underage football in a more defined attacking position: “Yeah, up until about age 16, I was regarded as a forward. My first year with the Mayo minors I was wing forward but then Declan Reilly, manager at the time, saw we had a lot of good forwards, were probably a bit short in the backs, and asked me to go back there. I’ve been there ever since.”
At 27 Boyle has also spent quite a few years learning the ropes of being a defender: in 2008, he debut season with the Mayo seniors, he would normally play corner back, and he admits himself he often struggled in the corner, and drifted in and out of starting roles in the few years after.
“Physically and mentally I was at a different place than I am now. The plan, always, was just to get back playing good football, which I probably hadn’t done in a couple of years. But like any defender, you can get on a lot of ball, or it can also be the toughest position on the pitch. It really depends on who you’re marking. It can vary, and you will always have good days and bad.”
The quarter-final against Donegal was one of Boyle’s best days, especially as he kicked one of their opening scores, off the left boot, too. At 5ft 9in he’s not the biggest Mayo defender but he makes up for that with his aggression. “It is one to the aspects I’ve been working on, to get stronger.” Boyle will pull on his Mayo jersey on Sunday, and his first thoughts will go back to a year ago. “Because last year, we felt we didn’t play to our ability, that was the frustrating thing. This time we’re looking to put in the performance we know we can.”