Sunday, March 02, 2008

Straining Against the Laois - Fishy Business in the Mayo Forward Line

Laois 1-13
Mayo 1-13

“What might have been” always has an electric effect on the Mayo supporter; it is generally best not to bring it up, as tears may quickly ensue. As such, the Laois county board were playing a dangerous game with their program for the game last night at Páirc Uí Mhordha, Portlaoise.

There was a thought-provoking picture of Kieran McDonald on the cover, as the status of Mayo’s Gile Mear remains unknown as the sod firms and spring advances. Even more heartbreaking though, the program had two lovely reports by Pat Delaney of matches past between the teams, one from 1980 and the other from 1973. Mayo won both games, thanks in no small part to the input of their full forward lines. In 1980, the inside line was Jimmy Burke, Jimmy Lyons and Joe McGrath – between them, they contributed 2-03 to Mayo’s total of 2-08. Not bad, but 1973 – my God, what a full-forward line wore green above the red that day. They were Ted Webb, Willie McGee and Jinkin' Joe Corcoran, legends all, and they contributed 2-04 to the Mayo total of 2-10.

Can you see where your Spailpín Fánach is going with this?

Last night, Mayo played with a two man inside line, with Austin O’Malley dropping deep, which is hardly the spot for him. The logic of this formation is hard to entirely understand – the only two-man inside line that really cut sides up that An Spailpín can bring to mind is Meath’s from 1999 to 2001, when Ollie Murphy and Graham Geraghty terrorised defences across Ireland. The thing about those two boys though is that they were able to win independent ball – An Spailpín has fallen hopelessly in love with that phrase since hearing Jack O’Connor use it one summer! – and having won it, they were able to use it.

Andy Moran and Conor Mortimer are who they are, and it is unrealistic to expect them to behave as Murphy and Geraghty. But it is a little worrying that they are currently expected to do these jobs for which they don’t seem entirely suited.

Rumours of discontent in the camp constantly emanate from Laois, but they didn’t look too bad at all from where An Spailpín was sitting last night. Padraig Clancy lorded midfield against an out of sorts James Gill and David Heaney, forcing O’Mahony to spring Ronan McGarrity from the bench after twenty minutes to calm things down a bit there. The Laois inside line looked particularly tasty, with the old bull Parkinson in one corner, the young bull Tierney (nine points, three from frees – can’t ask for more than that) in the other, and Brendan Quigley of Timahoe between them. Quigley was in midfield last year and played some Aussie Rules before that again, experience that allowed him to wreck no small amount of havoc in the Mayo defence. Quigley will take watching in the Leinster Championship this summer.

For Mayo, not as much to be hopeful about right now, to be honest. Aidan Kilcoyne made up for last week a little when he came on at half-time for Michael Mullins yesterday, but if the Mayo forwards were crustaceans they would be crabs – constantly scuttling sideways, eyes out on stalks and never making progress. The ideal denizens of the deep to name in the forwards would be a great big blue whale at full forward, two sharks playing off him in the corners, a dancing seahorse at 10, a leaping trout at 12 and a dirty great ugly brute of a pike at 11, pulling the strings and exerting his authority.

These are unlikely to manifest between now and June 22nd, of course, and Johnno and the travelling support must make do in the meantime. Minds now turn to Castlebar, and a game against Kerry on the day before St Patrick’s Day. It will be a glorious day out, and Mayo are not quite relegated yet. It looked like Laois and Mayo would descend hand in hand into Roinn a Dó next year at half-past eight last night, but now I’m not quite so sure. A result against Kerry would be heartening in more ways than one. However, having seen parts of their game against Derry on TG4 today, it’s hard to see it happening I’m afraid.

But what matter? Isn’t it only the League?

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,