TODAY’S Division 1 bottom of the table clash between Meath and Mayo could be classified as just as an early-season regulation league meeting.
The stark reality is that both teams require a vast improvement in performance if they are to climb clear of the relegation zone over the next few weeks.
It is great to see Meath return to the top flight of league football for the first time in 14 years.
Galway, like Meath, plied their trade in Division 2 for many years, before eventually returning to the top flight.
But the key goal is to retain Division 1 status, having been promoted – which Galway did. Once this is achieved the benefits will flow, as happened with the Tribesmen.
After all the controversy outside and within the Mayo GAA County Board over the winter months, the football has been left to take centre stage again.
In terms of what happened in the Mayo boardroom, club delegates decided on who they believed were the best people to lead them and we wish the new County Board executive well.
Mayo are in a familiar position after two rounds of the league. With the exception of last year, they’ve always had their backs to the wall during the last decade after the early skirmishes in the league.
There is always an excuse offered in some way shape or form: be it from supporters or management. And in Mayo, it’s a collective issue, when it comes to finding excuses.
What’s needed is some honesty when it comes to performance reviews – and not just in July and August.
Granted Mayo are coping with injuries to key players, but virtually every other team are dealing with similar issues at this time of the year.
Mayo, though, appear to have to be dealing with the walking wounded for the best part of two years now.
Invariably this issue comes back to haunt the team in the white heat of championship battle – as we painfully experienced against Dublin last year.
It is a basic requirement that every player is 100 percent fit and that’s even before you can start thinking about competing against Dublin.
James Horan needs to show more allegiance and trust in the younger crop of players that are emerging.
Granted the cream always comes to the top, but I honestly believe the Mayo players and management have not challenged themselves enough.
Players like Eoin O’Donoghue and Padraig O’Hora need to be handed the jersey not just in league, but also in the championship.
Jordan Flynn will be a pillar for the team around the middle third for many years to come. Regardless of whether he deserved a red card against Dublin, the youngster has learned his lesson.
For starters, don’t put a referee in a position where he has to make a call on a red card and, secondly, when making a challenge keep your hands by your side and your feet on the ground. So it’s a case of live and learn: don’t lunge and live to regret it.
James Durcan, Fergal Boland, Brian Reape and Ciaran Tracey all have one thing in common – they know where the posts are located. The rest of what they need can be coached and learned through trial and error. James Carr will also have a big say in future years and could become a central cog in the Mayo attack.
Furthermore, I believe that James Durcan has the talent to ultimately become as effective as Andy Moran was for so many years.
Mayo management teams have a tendency to create their own monsters. In this instance, I’m referring to the No 1 shirt.
My reading is that David Clarke was dropped after the Donegal game and Rob Hennelly is now the preferred choice as goalkeeper.
It is not a rotational issue anymore but the problem is that it puts huge pressure on the incumbent if they make a mistake.
This reverberates throughout the team and the Mayo supporters sense it as well. Mayo are spoiled by choice in having two class goalkeepers but the problem is that it creates uncertainty.
My point is that if Hennelly is the first-choice goalkeeper he needs to be assured by the manager that even if he makes a mistake he will remain the first-choice goalkeeper.
The challenge for the younger brigade is to show a degree of ruthlessness and a healthy disregard for the past.
What has been the norm is not good enough any more. There are a number of established players who don’t dominate their positions for long enough.
And I’m not referring to the last two league games – it’s happening for a much longer period. They spent too much time on the periphery of games. They need to dominate over 70 minutes.
A rising tide lifts all ships and with that Mayo football will flourish both on and off the pitch.