Friday 24 November 2017

Mayo missing mark awakens bad memories

Former Mayo star David Brady. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Former Mayo star David Brady. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

A few weeks ago, eir Sport showed a re-run of the 1996 All-Ireland football final replay.

Meath faced Mayo on that infamous day as both sides played with 14 men for long periods after the row that saw Colm Coyle and Liam McHale sent off.

Watching the old footage, two things stood out.

One was the outstanding performance of James Horan. The other was the manner of some of the Mayo wides in the second-half.

Even allowing for the poor conditions, Mayo should have scored more on a day they lost by the minimum.

Of all the years that Mayo have knocked on the door, '96 still holds a special place in the hall of regrets.

It was hard not to think of those misses on Saturday evening as Mayo looked determined to kick themselves out of the championship when Derry came to Castlebar.

At the end of normal time they had scored 1-12 but kicked 17 wides, some of them unforgivable for such an experienced and talented side.

Their return-rate improved dramatically after the restart and they prevailed but it wasn't the first time this year that Mayo's shooting has let them down.

Poor shot selection denied them a chance of catching Galway on the line in the Connacht semi-final as two ill-advised efforts from Evan Regan saw them fall short.

It was noteworthy that of the eight players introduced off the bench after normal and extra-time on Saturday, Regan didn't see action.

Top scorer

Instead, Stephen Rochford turned to Conor Loftus. The Crossmolina man was only introduced with 11 minutes of normal time remaining but he finished the day as his side's joint top-scorer from play with 1-1.

Loftus is well touted in Mayo circles. He hit 2-2 in the final as the U-21s secured the All-Ireland title last year.

Former Mayo star David Brady was in Castlebar. He identified the backing of the Mayo crowd in Elverys MacHale Park and the introduction of Loftus as key in getting them over the line last weekend.

"The (crowd) started chanting: 'Mayo, Mayo', and if ever a crowd reignited a team they did and so did the introduction of Conor Loftus," Brady told INM's GAA podcast The Throw-In.

"A man asked me last week was I related to Conor Loftus because I have mentioned him in any interview I did in the last six or seven weeks.

"It's totally wrong he wasn't introduced against Galway. It's no good Stephen Rochford saying he was going very well in training and was unlucky not to start.

"Conor Loftus played minimally in the league but he is an U-21 All-Ireland winner and was a fantastic minor player that has come through the ranks.

"He needs to be the future. There's no competition in the Mayo forward line, they need to introduce the likes of this guy."

Brady went on to insist that Mayo's attacking game-plan leaves a lot to be desired.

"I don't think we can gloss over the fact of how extremely poor Mayo were and naïve they were, and I'll be honest from a forward and attacking perspective, I know what those guys are capable of but they seemed to have no plan and no shape."

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Irish Independent

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