O'Mahony's bold judgment vindicated by win

 

Football Analyst: VICTORY IS the only commodity that matters to Mayo this morning because had they somehow contrived to lose yesterday’s Connacht football final, the psychological implications would have been devastating.

In recent years Mayo have been scarred by defeat, most of it gut-wrenching but they finally managed to pen an escape clause with Peadar Gardiner’s injury-time point.

It is no more than they deserved having dominated large tranches of a game they threatened to throw away in those final six minutes as Galway scored 1-4 without reply only to then succumb to a final sucker punch.

Mayo manager John O’Mahony would have been very annoyed with the manner in which Mayo capitulated during those final minutes, basically ceding Galway the middle third of the pitch and inviting them back into a contest that should have been long decided.

Winning isn’t a panacea for all ills but in Mayo’s case it will offer a confidence boost going into the quarter-finals, while at the same time providing a reminder that idling is a dangerous occupation for any team ahead of that final whistle.

They did summon the resolve to snatch the win and there was a certain irony that it should come from the boot of Gardiner in the sense it was probably the only time in the game that he passed midfield so preoccupied was he with defensive chores.

Mayo were deserving winners and a team containing six Connacht final debutants vindicated the bold judgment of O’Mahony and his selectors. In the current game there is a huge emphasis on fitness, pace and youthful enthusiasm and this was best exemplified by Aidan O’Shea. The 19-year-old played with a maturity that belied his years, winning ball and linking intelligently with his colleagues.

Conor Mortimer has been the mainstay of several Mayo forward lines and no one doubts his class as a footballer but he’s had to bide his time on the bench and was introduced to great effect yesterday. He’s the perfect foil for bigger players like Barry Moran and O’Shea. Trevor Mortimer played a captain’s part, demonstrating his fitness in a roving role that often took him to midfield and precision in supplying the pass for brother, Conor’s goal. Galway found is difficult to moderate his input and he was a vital cog in his team’s win.

Mayo’s use of the long ball into the full-forward line when playing with the wind in the first half was a lucrative option. They should have plumped for it more often given the presence of three physically strong players there and should have racked up a bigger total by the interval.

O’Mahony displayed his tactical acumen in introducing Mark Donaldson and giving him a sweeping role in defence that helped to stymie Galway except for those last six minutes. The athleticism and mobility of Ronan McGarrity, David Heaney, Pat Harte and Alan Dillon gave Mayo the edge around the middle of the pitch.

Galway were a great deal more physical than in previous matches and they did manage to break and also force turnovers with that greater intensity in the tackle; albeit facilitated by Mayo’s over indulgence in trying to solo up the middle of the pitch during the second half.

Unfortunately for the home side, two of their key players, Pádraig Joyce and Michael Meehan, were well-marshalled for the majority of the game. The latter finally managed to escape the clutches of the Mayo defence to poach a brilliant goal in injury time that might have given his side a draw.

But Nicky Joyce proved the only Galway forward to consistently score from play. The only cavil would be he should have left that late long-range free to the unerring Meehan.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this win for Mayo. They will now head for Croke Park with a pep in their step. Galway should not be counted out of the championship yet. On a given day they have the potential to turn over any team.

But Tyrone are the team that the rest of the country is chasing. They weren’t extended unduly in winning the Ulster football final in Clones yesterday but still managed to produce a pretty compelling exhibition at various stages of the match. There is a huge skill set within the team that allows plays to interchange position thereby guaranteeing fluency to the way in which they play. They use the full extent of the pitch to create space and then exploit it ruthlessly. Ryan McMenamin was handed a roving commission, wing backs Philip Jordan and Davy Harte tapped over points, and Seán Cavanagh produced a wonderful individual display.

Antrim needed an early goal but instead conceded one and the outcome was obvious from an early stage. Their shooting lacked composure; they lacked the guile to work ball into realistic scoring positions.

They didn’t give up and in the second half caused Tyrone a number of problems when they ran at them but bravery alone was never going to suffice.

Tyrone play the game at a higher pace than any other team in the championship and boast an innate understanding that comes with playing together for several years. They remain the team to beat.

Elsewhere Kerry were fortunate to escape with a one-point win over a Sligo side that deserves all the plaudits for the manner of their performance. David Kelly was the game’s best player and it was a pity from a Sligo perspective that the pressure of taking that penalty made him rush it a little. Kerry still have defensive problems but the fact that they are still in the championship and edging closer to Croke Park will drive them on.

Donegal gave an emphatic answer to those who questioned their commitment and character in beating Derry while Mick O’Dwyer masterminded another great night in Aughrim as Wicklow squeezed past Down.