Mayo secured two valuable league points yesterday at Castlebar but their six-point win over Limerick was anything but convincing. The visitors kicked ten wides and twice hit the posts late on so the winning margin flattered us somewhat. It's worth noting that while the 1-10 we scored yesterday was good enough for a win, the same score a fortnight ago up in Ballybofey saw us lose by three points. The quality of the opposition yesterday - in a county where gaelic football only ranks fourth in the pecking order (after rugby, hurling and soccer, in that order) - was clearly not as high as the previous day. This fact was also confirmed yesterday by Donegal's quite comfortable win over the hapless Dubs.
Still, the points are in the bag and, if we manage two more against Fermanagh up in Clones on Sunday week, the nightmare prospect of Division 3 football next year should be avoided. A step up in form will still be needed, however, if we are to retain Division 1 status next year.
There were a few positional switches from the team announced in advance, with Kevin O'Neill swapping places with Ger Brady and Trevor Mortimor coming out to left-half forward and Alan Dillon taking his place at full-forward. KoN's original placing in the half-forward line was strange enough but moving him to centre-forward was even more odd. However, that paled beside the switching of Alan Dillon to full-forward. Messiah, what you up to?
It's difficult to know how the rejigged lineup would have fared but an early injury to DB (after only nine minutes) meant that we wouldn't get the chance to find out. Up till then, Mayo were cruising - they had raced into a 1-2 to 0-0 lead, Trevor getting the goal - but once the Main Man departed (to be replaced by clubmate Pat Harte), gone too went much of the coherence in Mayo's performance. When the Skipper limped off shortly before half-time, Mayo lost another leader but by then, with the score at 1-6 to 0-2, the points were more or less secure.
The second half performance was ragged enough, with Limerick cutting the deficit to four points and missing further chances to get closer. Still, we managed to close out the game effectively enough and the six-point winning margin also helped to boost our points difference, taking us above Tyrone to third in the table (behind unbeaten Donegal and Kerry, who have a slightly better points difference than us).
The negatives from yesterday were a continuing lack of fluency in the forwards and the way our game plan came asunder once DB and KoN went off. There were some positives, however, notably encouraging debuts from Enda Devenney and Aidan Campbell, both of whom bagged two points. Andy Moran also weighed in with two points and he set up Trevor's goal early on. His excellent form both for Mayo and Sligo IT will make him hard to ignore in any team selection from now on.
Champagne football it wasn't but it was a valuable win. Next up is the trip to Clones against bottom-of-the-table Fermanagh on the 11th of March, another must-win match.