Monday 18 December 2017

'Sloppy' Sligo goals spur sweeper Boyle and Mayo to clean up act

Mayo's Colm Boyle
Mayo's Colm Boyle
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

It was something small but something to cling to nonetheless.

When Mayo beat Donegal in their All-Ireland quarter-final earlier this month they conceded the lowest score in any Croke Park Championship game that they have played since they began building as a team under James Horan in 2011.

In 10 games there - four All-Ireland quarter-finals, four semi-finals and two finals between 2011 and 2014 - the average rate of concession by Mayo teams has been 13.5 points.

They conceded 11 points against Donegal, one less than the 2-6 against Cork in the 2011 quarter-final, two less than the 0-13 and 1-10 against Tyrone and Donegal respectively in 2013.

When you are part of a defence that has coughed up four goals in two Connacht Championship games which you have won with some degree of comfort, you'll take it.

Colm Boyle admits that as a group Mayo's defence had to take stock of the situation after their provincial final against Sligo.

"We sat down the week after that and we all spoke about it. We weren't happy with how we coughed up some handy scores on the day," he said. "Sligo forwards played well considering the amount of ball that was actually being fed in, but we weren't happy.

"They were two sloppy goals and it followed on from the Galway game where we felt we gave away a couple of sloppy goals as well. It's something we talked about alright."

There is the provision, however, that Donegal may not have been anywhere near their best, coming back down to Dublin just seven days after beating Galway.

"Donegal probably felt they wouldn't have played anything near their potential and that might have a bit to do with it as well.

"We probably defended better than we have done this year but Donegal kicked a couple of wides and I know they had a goal chance at the end of the first-half just before we got our goal."

That said, Boyle especially has been showing less tendency to press forward than he has done in the past.

Against Donegal he dovetailed with Barry Moran as sweeper in a clever deployment of resources when the need arose.

"I've been trying to hold a bit more. That doesn't mean to say I'm not allowed to go if it opens up. It goes for everyone on the pitch. The lads are always encouraging us to attack and someone else will cover," he says.

"It can be hard because you can find yourself ball-watching and not looking at what's happening around the place. The main thing is to keep the concentration when you're doing it. It might look easy but sometimes you can lose yourself and be out of position."

"I think we have players who can play in certain positions," says Boyle.

"In the past maybe we tended to line out as we were from game to game. Maybe we have moved on from that a small bit now and try to mix it up."

Even Aidan O'Shea, he feels, offers as versatile a product as they have on the team. "I think he's getting to like full-forward. But the beauty about Aidan is you can play him anywhere. You could play him at No 6, 8, 11 or 14 and he would probably be one of the best players in that position."

O'Shea's presence this summer at full-forward has eased the pressure somewhat on Cillian O'Connor as the leader of the attack but Boyle feels the contribution of the other forwards is too easily dismissed.

"If you look at who got scores in the Donegal game, Jason Doherty got three and Kevin McLoughlin got two. Cillian will always get you a few scores so I think it's a label unfair to some of those lads."

Irish Independent

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