Order will be restored at Connacht with Mayo and Galway – albeit it is the first round and Roscommon will be a lump in the soup for all other teams west of the Shannon.
there will be a carnival atmosphere around Castlebar today. The weather looks like it’s playing ball and a redesigned venue is hosting the first big game of the year. Carnival time in Mayo.
The fans haven’t lost faith in this team, or pure stubbornness has spread. They’ll be in Castlebar this morning, and by the thousands too. A great passion for football runs through the veins of the Mayo people and they are willing to support their clubs and district teams out of their pockets.
There isn’t the same kind of love in Galway where it’s more passionless. Of course, the footballers share the stage with the Hurlers – a group that threatens to win the All-Ireland almost every year. However today Galway will bring huge support as there are signs that this team have made significant progress in the league despite Roscommon beating them in the Division 2 final. Galway conceded 1-20 in that match and will not win today if they lick that much.
Roscommon has a better attacking line than Mayo at the moment and the loss of Tommy Conroy deprives them of someone who can offer that
X factor. In the League Finals against Kerry, Mayo continued with Plan A when he didn’t work against Tyrone, didn’t work against Kerry, and won’t work against a well-organized defense in the All-Ireland Final. Good defenders can pull back against Mayo, knowing that most of the time they will be charging forward like the “Charge of the Light Brigade” and encountering the crowds of defenders around the 45-yd-line. If they violate that, they’re in, but most of the time it didn’t work.
Neither did the Light Brigade in Crimea when the 670-horse British Calvary encountered Russian artillery. A bit inappropriate, as Lord Tennyson put it in his poem. In some ways the players are like these soldiers – ‘To give their answer, not to explain their why, theirs, but to do and die, Into the valley of death rode the six hundred’. A good team must believe in its leader, even when it seems to be on the wrong track. So Mayo must carry out her plan, and if that means storming the barricades, then so be it.
Galway takes a more sensible approach. It’s based on superior skill, of course, and any plan usually works if there’s a bit of class involved. Does Kerry need a lot of tactics when they have a young man named David Clifford up front? And it’s not like an opponent can decide to put three players on him, as there are plenty of other good strikers who can make hay if Clifford is given too much attention.
Shane Walsh is Galway’s Clifford. These two are probably the most exciting players in the country and after games, young people line up in front of them for autographs and photos. Walsh doesn’t have Clifford’s killer instincts and chases too far from goal. The long, labyrinthine runs often start about halfway. He can be like an electric car running out of juice near the goal zone. He needs to take a little better care of his battery and play further up front where he can do more damage. One downside is that he doesn’t score enough points, but if he stays close to Damien Comer there’s a chance for real damage.
Around the moving feast called midfield, Paul Conroy has to be looked after by Matthew Ruane. These are two proper footballers but Conroy’s ability to score from long range sets him apart. He put in a wonderful performance against Roscommon in the league final – seven shots, six points. And he does it regularly, so Mayo is well warned.
After that, problems arise for Galway. It may be in line with Pádraic Joyce’s football philosophy, but it seems to be based on attack, attack, attack. It worked well against Roscommon, 22 points will probably win any big game in the league but equally you will lose provincial finals, semifinals and All Ireland finals if you concede 1-20. It’s not that a major trawl wasn’t done to find a few defenders. The only thing missing was an ad in the Connacht Grandstand. Injuries have not helped but good man-marking defenders are in short supply in Galway these days.
The art of individual defense has also disappeared. Every defender is now looking for help instead of just doing their job and young players all want to play up front. Marking tight and not kicking the ball isn’t a glory, it’s being an essential cog.
Mayo are the opposite of Galway. You will win many low score matches. Their strength lies in good defence. They’re usually good in that department. However, the same defenders – like Paddy Durcan, Lee Keegan and Oisín Mullin – are also said to be forwards. Those continuous runs forward are taking their toll. Aside from Ryan O’Donoghue, who is set to pick up a few points from the game, Mayo, as ever, appears to lack class in that department. Even at that, O’Donoghue isn’t as good as Walsh or Comer. Honesty of effort will only get you so far.
The result depends on how many points Mayo can limit Galway to. If Galway can go 1-16 then Mayo is unlikely to be able to win. They need all their old soldiers back, but it’s asking a lot of them. The light brigade can only take so much. Galway looks more like a team of the future to me and I expect them to win.
Meanwhile, the farce surrounding last week’s suspensions being lifted adds another twist to the game between Donegal and Armagh. Armagh recalled his players on appeal (apart from Ciarán Mackin who was not due to be available anyway through injury) while Donegal did not, as they failed to appeal. To me this is a real mess – as one GAA body undermines another.
In any proper sports organization there should be a body that deals with suspensions and none of those texts to justify everything where lawyers have a big day with words and meanings. Everything should be tight. A melee is ugly and should be treated by discrediting the game. And if there’s a complaint that doesn’t stand, then the suspension should be doubled. After that, people can go to the High Court if they want.
Nowadays referees will not do anything if there is a hand-to-hand fight in a game. So it’s back to the old order, one in, all in. And good luck to the Armagh County Board if they do encounter a few close quarters in their club competitions. Some may be wondering, do club players have the same rules as district players? The answer is obvious, so no one can be suspended unless they hit it. That doesn’t happen anymore.
Of course, one of the real causes of hand-to-hand combat is a player holding onto the ball when a free is given against him. Again, a significant deterrent is the only thing that will solve this problem. An immediate black card and a 50-yard forward movement of the ball would solve the problem. As it stands now, Tyrone’s Conor McKenna should be preparing to play against Derry next week. His suspension cannot hold if others drop out.
Today’s game in Ballybofey will have an added benefit with all the background distractions. In the league, Donegal won by a point and both counties had seven points from seven games. But Armagh’s form rejuvenated after beating Dublin and Tyrone in the first two rounds. It seems Armagh had done a lot of work earlier in the year and others were starting to catch up.
Donegal is as annoying as ever. It hasn’t been a good league campaign for them but maybe they weren’t that excited and there were two main goals for the year, survival in the top flight and the Ulster Championship. One down, one go. As always, speculation revolves around Michael Murphy’s fitness and where he is set to play. He might want to drift outfield, but with Paddy McBrearty on his shoulder, he’s more dangerous close to goal.
Armagh will be the opposite of Donegal – they will put the ball in fast and long. It’s attractive to watch from a neutral’s point of view. But Donegal is tough to beat in Ballybofey and I don’t expect that to change today.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/attack-minded-galway-look-more-like-a-team-of-the-future-than-mayo-41581656.html Attacking Galway looks more like a team of the future than Mayo