Andy comes in handy for Mayo
OBSCURED though it was by the all-round brilliance of Aidan O’Shea, the brief role Andy Moran played in Mayo’s victory over Galway lit up the game with that singular quality he seems to reserve for special occasions. He was forced out of the game in the first half with a knee injury.
Back in 2012, a debilitating cruciate ligament injury sidelined him in the quarter-final against Down in 2012 when he was at the peak of his form, a striker feared by most defences. Since then, despite valiant efforts, he has never quite managed to rediscover the old magic that would win him a place on the first team.
Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea apart, the vacuum Andy’s loss created has never been fully filled, nor has his scoring power been emulated. And yet, curiously, his contribution in a salvaging role continues to be enormous.
Observers query whether that brilliant opening point against Galway from close to the corner flag was a shot in the dark or a sample of the accuracy Moran has exhibited during his county career.
When victory in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2006 seemed a bleak prospect, it was to Andy manager Mickey Moran turned to rescue the game. The Ballagh’ man responded with a memorable goal that set Mayo on the road to victory over Dublin.
Ever since, it is to Andy managers turn when crises loom, and for his ability to set Mayo back on track, he has become something of a celebrity ... an enduring safety valve that humps them over the line.
In 2011, under new manager James Horan, Mayo were forced into extra time by London in the first round of the championship in Ruislip. A last-gasp point by Kevin McLoughlin spared their blushes, and in the second half of extra-time, a flurry of points by Andy guided Mayo over the hazard.
Last year in the Connacht semi-final at Hyde Park the alarm bells rang again, and almost instinctively you looked to James to look for Andy. Barely on the field, the Ballagh’ man grabbed possession, turned, and shot a point from some 45 metres . . . a simple procedure that so many find so difficult. And Mayo scraped through.
Although still only 31 years of age, his selection on the first team against Galway the other day was a bit of a surprise. We didn’t expect the part-time Andy to be ready for a full-time role, to have regained his pre-injury form.
In that first point of the game there was, however, a tangible link with the old Moran, a player confident in his own ability. What does it matter whether it was planned or not? It went over; he had the courage and the confidence to take it on, to score and to set an example for others.
He clipped over another less acute shortly afterwards, and then was forced to leave the field with a knee injury. It is to be hoped he will not suffer a setback, for Mayo needs the emergency marksmanship Andy Moran still provides.
Rossies undone by complacency
WHO would have expected Roscommon to fall to Sligo’s sword? All of their eagerness, their hope, their confidence of dethroning Mayo, all evaporated in the Sligo air on Saturday evening. And all, surely, due to that most withering of football’s mental ailments ... complacency.
Not for the first time have Sligo upset expectations and confounded the critics. Mayo and Galway have learned that to their regret on occasions. No other county in the province possesses the facility to rise so highly above predictions of doom and astonish the punters.
They are now in a Connacht final, the unlikeliest of opponents, who stand in the way of Mayo’s five in a row. Roscommon must travel to Cavan to keep their championship hopes alive, and all of a sudden their season is threatening to unravel.
Sligo’s win was no fluke. They hassled and harried, kicked points from various angles, long range and short, and could have won by a bigger margin than four points.
Mayo must now refocus. It’s a different ball game, requiring a different approach, different plans and different sensibilities. It may also be in Pearse Stadium, an inconvenience Mayo supporters did not expect.
Mystery of Mayo’s first five-in-a-row?
THE conundrum of the five-in-a row Connacht titles that Mayo did or did not win in the first decade of the last century persists.
Official records seem to suggest that Mayo won four consecutive titles from 1906 to 1909 inclusive. And your scribe has been content to accept the veracity of that account.
Even though the Connacht competition in those years was ridden with objections and counter-objections, cancellations and unrecorded results of re-fixtures, there is solid evidence to validate those four Mayo victories.
Nor is there any doubt about Roscommon’s victory in 1905, their second provincial title in three years. So the winning of the 1910 title is crucial in determining whether or not Mayo had won five in a row before Galway claimed their first quintet of provincial crowns from 1956-1960
According to official records, the crown of 1910 belongs to Galway. But in his ‘Diary of a Century 1885-1984’, former Mayo and Connacht Council secretary Johnny Mulvey claims Mayo played Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final in 1910.
“The All-Ireland semi-finals in football and hurling were played in Tuam. In the football semi-final Kerry and Mayo were level at half-time (1-1 to 0-4) but Kerry went on to lead at full time by 1-7 to 0-4,” he writes.
No record of a Connacht final appears in the diary. But in confirming the All-Ireland semi-final account, the very informative mayoGAAblog.com states that the semi-final as recorded by Johnny Mulvey took place on August 21, 1910.
The blog also claims that the Connacht final was played at Ballina on October 30 of that year:
FINAL: Mayo 1-4 Galway 0-5 (Ballina, 30/10/1910). MAYO: P Sweeney; B Ferguson, M McHugh, A Boshell, T Gibson, Franklin, W Boshell, B Durkan, P Farmer, M Farrell, J Moran, T Boshell, A Hanley, G Fitzgerald, E Boshell, J Jordan, WF Courell.
No reason is given for the All-Ireland semi-final being played before the Connacht final. In his book ‘The Football Immortals’, the late Raymond Smith credits Galway with the title of 1910, beating Roscommon by 1-3 to 1-2.
No account of that match has been found. Could it be that an objection was raised by Roscommon, delaying the competition, in which case Mayo were nominated to represent the province in the All-Ireland semi-final ... and afterwards beat Galway in the provincial decider?
In the absence of significant evidence to suggest otherwise, Mayo must be entitled to claim the crown for 1910, their first five-in-a-row.
Just a thought
THE congratulations of this column go to former Mayo and Castlebar Mitchels star Frank McDonald, who celebrated the big 70 in An Sportlann on Saturday night with family and friends.