O’Mahony should enjoy a winning start to his big week
Published 20/05/2007 | 14:35
BY the time the Angelus bell rings this evening, the destiny of some footballers’ careers and a political one may have been decided.
A win today could help propel John O’Mahony upwards in the dog-eat-dog world of politics, a loss would surely see him exclusively involved in football for the summer. Which life is more ruthless is a matter of conjecture, past successes are quickly forgotten in both codes.
There would also be fall-out from defeat for some players. It would be hard to see the likes of Padraic Joyce having a huge appetite for the backpackers’ tour if Galway lose today, while Galway manager Peter Forde might feel like enjoying a quiet summer in his native Mayo rather than rousing those troops whose miles on the clock are getting into the red zone. Forde cannot walk away of course, no matter what happens, but while Galway successfully travelled the back roads before, I don’t see it happening this time.
So today’s match has a few more twists than usual, while personal pride and a desire for the respect of your own tribe will ensure that maximum effort prevails.
The last meeting in the league semi-final was only shadow boxing and this game will be a much harder contest, even if Galway-Mayo games rarely have a very physical edge to them.
Having said that, it was apparent last Sunday that refereeing has changed. There were far fewer hold-ups due to referees running around waving cards and books of different colours. It certainly helped the fluency of both games and if a referee does not have enough cop on to know who is acting the maggot without noting every detail, then he should not be refereeing these or any other games. Things went well last week from the whistle and cards point of view, and I hope this will be the case for the summer.
The problem for Mayo now is deciding their best team, as there are about 20 players without much between them. Ciaran McDonald is in the wings and O’Mahony must decide whether he is a help or a hindrance as the rest of the forwards have learned to take more responsibility. The best place for McDonald is full-forward and for others to lash it in to him. He is well able to fight for it and has the strength to cause huge problems. He should not be let outfield to give flashy passes which often don’t achieve much. ‘Close to goal and go for goals’ should be his motto.
With Conor Mortimer, Andy Moran and Alan Dillon, Mayo could have a nice forward line. James Nallen (selected today at centre back) and David Heaney (midfield) could do a job for quite a while yet, but the backline is a problem. Early league promise from Liam O’Malley needs a championship stamp.
There are a few certainties about today, the traffic will be backed up from Salthill to Belmullet and if there is a wind blowing it will have come unimpeded from 5th Avenue New York. And Padraic Joyce will need to score seven or eight points for Galway to win, because the form of Micheál Meehan in close-marking matches of this nature has not been encouraging.
The old hands are still carrying more than their share for Galway, Kieran Fitzgerald, Derek Savage are two others, and it is no wonder that Peter Forde still picks them. You don’t shoot the pack horse until you know who is going to carry the load.
As of now I don’t see enough new Galway players who can drive on to greater things. I will go for the first and maybe easiest part of the O’Mahony double, a Mayo win.
Far away in Croke Park, I will be keeping a watching brief on Meath and Kildare and was hoping this would be part of the Sunday Game. There were some signs of a Meath resurgence in winning Division 2, but this must come with a serious health warning as all the games I saw in this division seemed to be of a low standard.
Playing Kildare is a proper test. They qualified for the league semifinal, losing to Donegal. That was a good performance and must be seen in the light of coming against the best team in the country at the moment.
The loss of young stars Tommy Archibald and Tomás O’Connor is a grievous blow to manager John Crofton, who was putting a nice team together, but then, to lose Killian Brennan and Dermot Earley would be a mortal blow to most teams. The only thing is that they have had a bit of time to get used to the idea and plan for this with new men in position.
The most intriguing clash is between John Doyle and Darren Fay. I don’t envy Fay’s job today and maybe Meath might decide to put a real tight marker on Doyle if he roams outfield. Either way, it is hard not to see Doyle doing a bit of damage as he is one of the best forwards in the country and that includes Gooch, Donaghy, O’Neill and anyone else you can think of.
At the other end, Brian Farrell and Stephen Bray have been doing very well for Meath, but now they are stepping up to a higher class of marker and their performance must reflect that.
This should be a good open game, as neither side look defensive. There is a big prize, a meeting with the Dubs in a fortnight, I hope the Royal army will be camping out on the canal bank for the June bank holiday weekend.
The first match in Croke Park sees Wicklow take on Louth and much interest will centre on Mick O’Dwyer. There was no immediate transformation in fortunes since he took over. One big reason for this is that there is no tradition.
A big county which slips down the ladder can be easy enough to rouse, but Wicklow are a long term project. Louth are quite experienced, winning last year’s Division 2 and drawing with Tyrone in the championship. They will be hot favourites to win today. If Wicklow lose, Micko may decide to use the bus pass a bit more. The Tommy Murphy Cup and Mick O’Dwyer don’t seem to fit together.