Sunday 4 December 2016

Paul Curran: This Mayo side may have gone as far as they can go

Read his column every week in The Herald

Paul Curran

Published 21/06/2016 | 07:50

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford ahead of the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Mayo and Galway at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford ahead of the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Mayo and Galway at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

MAYO will take the scenic route through the Championship for the first time in six seasons after losing to a very well organised and extremely hungry Galway last Saturday evening in Castlebar.

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It was a game that took a long time to get going and was littered with poor play but that won’t bother Galway manager Kevin Walsh too much because this game was all about the victory and he has three weeks to iron out a few problems.

They will face a Roscommon team who themselves are very much a work in progress but I think that Roscommon will cause them more problems as they have a very capable forward line.

On Saturday Galway showed a lot of heart and grit which will have pleased their supporters and the fact that they dominated most of the game will give them huge confidence going forward in the competition.

The game-plan worked very well and Mayo really had no answer.

When Stephen Rochford looks back at the dvd he will see the same failings that have dogged this team over the last few years. The problems have not gone away and one wonders whether or not this group have achieved as much as they are going to and may well be in decline.

That might sound a little harsh after losing just one game but the signs have been clear for a season or two now.

This game should have been a statement of intent from them but when Galway had their purple patch midway through the second half it looked like Mayo actually stopped playing.

And all this with a new manager who found himself in the job after a players’ coup to get rid of the last management team of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes.

Players should play and let managers manage. You don’t have to like your manager in order to perform and I just think that that move has hurt this group and they may not recover.

I played under six managers when I played with Dublin and I can’t say that I liked them all but my focus was always on what I needed to do and that meant that the buck always stopped with me.

I remember when Tommy Carr was losing his job after the 2001 season and there was a group of senior players putting pressure on the county board to keep him. I was asked would I lend my support but I preferred to stay out of it because it wasn’t my brief.

At that time Dublin had not won a provincial title since 1995 and Tommy Carr was replaced by Tommy Lyons who went on to lead the team to a Leinster SFC title the very next year.

It was a bad day for Mayo football when the players were allowed to dictate to the county board and I guess Holmes and Connelly, who were treated shamefully, will now feel that it wasn’t all their fault that the team didn’t win the All-Ireland last year. The defeat has thrown a spanner in the works and the Championship, on one side at least, looks very different.

Galway and Roscommon will now feel that they have a genuine chance of getting to an All-Ireland quarter-final or even to the last-four, provided they win the Connacht decider.

Tyrone too will feel that they have a massive opportunity to go all the way to a first All-Ireland final in eight years but again they must win the Ulster title first to make the routing a little easier.

They were made to sweat yesterday but really should have been able to close out the game against Cavan.

They conceded three goals with the defining goal coming in injury time so they will need to regroup and I think they will be better the next day.

DUBLIN meet Meath on Sunday in Croker and despite the fact that their graphs have been going in opposite directions over the last decade or so there is still huge interest in this fixture.

Dublin have been in a different league since Pat Gilroy’s team made the breakthrough in 2011 and are favourites to win Leinster and All-Ireland titles again this year.

They will not take this latest challenge lightly and will prepare correctly for this clash with the Royals like every other.

The level of completion in the squad is at an all-time high especially in the forward line and that has kept the players well and truly grounded despite all their success.

They will be up for this game and will no doubt be looking forward to another duel with their old rivals.

Meath have improved in the last season but they are still a long way off competing for major trophies. That said the confidence they would gain from beating Dublin would propel them quickly to the next level.

In the past we have witnessed first-hand what a victory in this fixture means to the Royals but it is hard to see how they can break this Dublin team.

Jim Gavin has a clean bill of health with all the players fit and hungry for more. Meath may well stay in the game for 40 minutes or so but if Dublin rattle in an early goal then the gap at the end will be a wide one.

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