Wednesday 22 November 2017

Carney backs big guns to steer safe passage

Martin Carney
Martin Carney
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Down caused the shock of the championship to date by dumping Monaghan out of the Ulster campaign last Saturday, so what chance have Derry or Longford in today's qualifier games against Mayo and Donegal?

Supporters of the two underdog teams may dare to dream of a giant-killing act, but for wannabe Sam Maguire Cup winners Mayo and Donegal, the prospect of a back-door defeat is unthinkable.

Nothing is impossible in sport, but perhaps the supporters of the big two can take some comfort from the observations of GAA pundit Martin Carney, who played for both counties.

Donegal-born Carney won two Ulster titles with Tír Chonaill, and four Connacht senior medals in the Mayo colours.

And no, he does not envisage a seismic shock happening to either of his former teams - at least, not this weekend, despite their recent provincial defeats to Galway and Tyrone.

"I thought Mayo showed plenty of energy against Galway, and they showed plenty of commitment," he said.

"There was no element of complacency that might have been there a year previously. I think they're in a better place than a lot of their fans would think they are.

"I believe at the weekend you will see a very good response from them, even though in playing against Derry, they're playing against an ultra-defensive team whose style of football Mayo have found difficult to cope with in the past.

"What I mean by that is, I saw them playing Monaghan and Cavan this year who played very defensively, and Mayo found it hard to break them down. But I still think the incentive is huge with them to actually get back into Croke Park (quarter-finals) at least," added Carney.

The Connacht men face Derry for only the second time in a qualifying contest.

The first occasion was in Celtic Park on July 14, 2007 when Derry won by 2-13 to 1-6.

Two members of the Mayo team which started in that match - goalkeeper David Clarke and corner-forward Andy Moran - were on duty in their recent Connacht semi-final against Galway.

Barry Moran and Alan Dillon, who are still in the Mayo panel, were in the squad that day in '07.

Three years later, Longford caused a major upset by defeating Mayo by a point at Pearse Park.

Nine of the side which started against Galway three weeks ago played in that 2010 game - David Clarke, Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins, Donal Vaughan, Kevin McLoughlin, Seamus O'Shea, Andy Moran, and Aidan O'Shea.

resilient That underlines how much the backbone of Mayo 2017 is much the same as for 2010, but Carney does not believe that is a major problem.

"These guys have been remarkably resilient. They have always shown great ability to bounce back from disappointment. These teams can't go on ad infinitum, so to speak, but from where we are at the present, I still think they will be able to get over this hurdle at the weekend," he said.

Donegal find themselves at the other end of the spectrum - attempting to mould a new youthful element in to the team, something which Tyrone exposed with their pace, power, and experience.

"There's no doubt that for the young lads, this was a real baptism of fire for them," Carney said. "I thought they looked flat by comparison with Tyrone, but I don't think Longford will beat them.

"If the game had been in Pearse Park, maybe fair enough, you'd think the pendulum would maybe swing more in Longford's direction, but I think the fact the game is in Ballybofey and in front of their own supporters will actually give Donegal an advantage."

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