Friday 15 December 2017

Eoin Liston: Mayo forwards look sharper but much sterner tests await

Mayo's Jason Doherty celebrates after scoring his side's second goal in the Connacht SFC final at MacHale Park. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Mayo's Jason Doherty celebrates after scoring his side's second goal in the Connacht SFC final at MacHale Park. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

MAYO showed yesterday why I believe they will still be challenging for championship honours once again this September. The doubts were surrounding them after they played so poorly against Roscommon but I think they have been dispelled now.

Quite rationally, questions were asked about how far they would be willing to go this summer given the massive disappointment of losing the last two All-Ireland finals. What they showed yesterday is they are in a very good place.

Jason Doherty and Aidan O'Shea have added a dimension to their forward line that was missing last year. Dublin will remain favourites, but it's going to take one hell of an effort for any team who wants to get by Mayo.

They play with great pace and the team work and willingness to die for each other is very evident.

For all Galway's improvement over the past 12 months, this game really was a classic case of men against boys.


Colm Boyle laid down a marker at the beginning when he nearly sent Damien Comer into the stand with a massive shoulder. From that moment, Mayo just blew them off the pitch with their physicality.

I counted that the Tribesmen only won two of their own 15 kick-outs in the first half. You simply can't operate like that. They did have fine performers in Shane Walsh and Paul Conroy but not enough were at their level. Those two impressed me but they were forced to live off scraps.

The supply going into the forwards was poor and for much of the game it was easy for the Mayo defence to clean up. Their experience and tactical nous meant Galway's youngsters just couldn't live with them when they upped the intensity in the second half.

While it's clear the Galway defence have worked on trying to get a system in place, it's a long way off where it needs to be. At times, they had bodies back inside their own half but it was almost for the sake of it.

Many of them were just marking space and didn't engage the Mayo attackers.

But to be fair, Galway have come a long way since last year. There was fight in them and they still scored 16 points despite the heavy margin of defeat. There are positives for them to take from this and in two years' time this set of players could have the county back winning Connacht titles.

James Horan, on the other hand, will be satisfied but he's not without some worries. As I've mentioned, they did concede a significant tally and the amount of times they turned over the ball will be something that can be worked on. Galway also had two big goal chances as well as a penalty.

But the other side of that is 11 Galway points came in the second half when the game was all but over. Mayo have another Connacht title and it's a stepping stone towards the bigger prizes.

They've not lost any of the edge or focus that made them so formidable last year, and no team will relish coming up against them in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

After their shock defeat to Armagh, much attention will be given to the future of Mickey Harte in Tyrone.

I don't know the ins and outs of the situation but Mickey deserves to leave on his own terms. If he wants to stay, given what he has done for football in the county and the success he brought, I would be shocked if the county board don't allow him to do so.

If he does decide his time has come, well then he can walk away knowing that he has changed the landscape of football and his achievements are unlikely to ever be matched in Tyrone.

It was disappointing to see the fracas before the match. I would be surprised if the GAA don't investigate this one.

Given Armagh were involved in a similar controversy only a few weeks ago, I would hope that the focus on the row doesn't take away from their victory.

Either way, teams need to be more disciplined, and it's not good for our games when this kind of thing happens.

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