Monday, February 15, 2010

Mayo Edge Tyrone as Mist Comes Down and Tempest Roars

Mayo 1-12
Tyrone 1-11

Perhaps the strangest thing about the league game in Omagh played in the soft spring rain on St Valentine’s Day was the sudden burst of messing that broke out in the final minute. Before that, the game had been typical league fare, played out in very middling weather. Teams going through the motions, thoughtful football men in the stand hoping to see rocks on which to build summer churches, and everybody fully aware of what time of year it is.

Then Mark Ronaldson caught Ryan McMenamin in the face with a flailing arm, laying him out, and all Hell broke loose. If An Spailpín were attending a children’s tea party and the young ladies suddenly pulled homemade shivs and started trying to slice each other’s ears off, he couldn’t have been more surprised.

There had been some biffs before that – Kevin McLoughlin took a shot in the second half that caused him to leave the field, and the substitution of both O’Sheas must have been injury related – but compared to the white heat of Championship, this was very much more Luis Vuitton than Vlad the Impaler.

Mayo won by a point, for what it’s worth, 1-12 to 1-11. They did well to hang on – Mayo were cruising with a four point lead with ten minutes to go when Tyrone realised that no points at all two games into the League isn’t the best situation for not getting tangled up in relegation issues when your mind should be on other issues after the Ides of March, and stepped on the gas a bit.

There were many positives to take from the Mayo performance, the most eye-catching being Mark Ronaldson’s very impressive tally of 1-6. The first thing you notice about Ronaldson is how very small he is, and you fear for his safety. It is interesting to note, however, that he put on his tour de force performance in Tyrone, home of Peter Canavan, who was pretty good at the football without being that big either.

The great thing about Ronaldson is that he seems a natural corner forward. He can come for a ball, collect it, turn and shoot. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is. Ronaldson is racking up the scores so far and if he form continues he’ll play his way onto the Championship team, and deserve his jersey.

Andy Moran was another standout today. Andy is senior on the team and, even though it’s sometimes difficult to know where exactly to play him, he showed a lot of bite and fight today, a level of bite that permeated down through the rest of the team.

Mayo did well at midfield, as they usually do in the league. It’s interesting to note that reaction on so many games that Mayo have played in the past six years focuses on how well Ronan McGarrity played, yet when Mayo lose in the Championship there seems to be an almost consensus that Mayo cannot afford the luxury of fourteen footballers and one basketballer.

This is not entirely fair to McGarrity. Or at all fair. Certainly when he started, David Brady was there to do the heavy work and McGarrity play the football but under the current setup, it’s McGarrity that does the heavy lifting in midfield while Parsons is the silky Second Coming.

Tom Parsons’ dip in form was deeply depressing last year, but he showed flashes of the sheer quality that made him an instant favourite when he first pulled on the jersey. Kevin McLoughlin, also, is a dinger, and An Spailpín is convinced that he was only substituted because he shipped a knock of some kind. McLoughlin is here to stay.

So Mayo have their four points in the bag now, and surely one or two more will pop up in the next five games to secure Division 1 for another year. Job done. It would be a mistake, however, to read anything more into a February League game than was there. Tyrone were at sixes and sevens due to the reshuffling caused by the sudden suspensions imposed on them, which freed up more room for the Mayo inside line that might otherwise be the case.

And reader, think on this: if this game were Championship, don’t you think that Ryan McMenamin would have been told to move onto Ronaldson and curb the diminutive Mayoman’s enthusiasm? It’s like we always say: it really is only the League.

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