We didn’t have a good outing in Castlebar on Saturday evening. Mayo on the day simply were too good for us.
It was a disappointing result and all the more disappointing because it was our worst performance of the championship and we left it to our last game.
The reality is except for the opening few minutes we never really got out of the blocks. Okay, in the second half we did play a good bit better than in the first and we cut their lead to a single point. But we never played with the fluency we did against Kerry in the previous game.
I don’t know what went wrong and was it a case we focussed too much on Mayo in our preparations and not enough on ourselves. I don’t know the answer.
But what I do know is that we were a pale shadow of the team that lit up the championship. Even in our good spell in the second half we were relying too much on the direct ball into Murphy. We never got going and playing the fast and flowing and expansive game we had played up to Saturday evening.
In fairness, we have to give Mayo credit too. They are a crafty and experienced outfit. I always feared them and never saw it more than a 50/50 game.
They got their match-ups spot on. They identified our big threats and targeted them. Lee Keegan took up Michael Murphy and did a reasonable job on him even though he gave away the penalty. Michael was still our best player.
Patrick Durcan went man to man on Ryan McHugh and kept the Kilcar man very quiet and also managed to kick three points in a man of the match performance.
Keith Higgins took up duty on Patrick McBrearty and picked up a black card for his attention. He had contained Patrick well up to his sending off.
I don’t think Patrick was himself and no matter what they say he was still showing the effects of a man carrying an injury.
Jamie Brennan never got going at all in the other corner so we were relying almost solely on Michael Murphy.
After Michael, Stephen McMenamin was our best player. He had a really fine game and seemed to be one of the few Donegal players that was up to the challenge.
Dáire Ó Baoill also had a fine game and kicked two points from centre-half-back and young Niall O’Donnell played well too.
It was encouraging and bodes well for the future that the three young lads were among our best performers on the day.
Oisin Gallen, to be fair, too showed well for the ball and won a good deal of ball. Oisin’s problem is he is only a young lad and hasn’t the physicality to compete with the likes of Brendan Harrision or Chris Barrett or Colm Boyle. They have been around for a good few years and are seasoned characters and are at the peak of their physical condition. Oisin is just a young lad and is in the early stages of his development. But I like him and he has a bright future.
The most galling thing about the defeat was with only minutes to go and despite not playing well we were still in the game and we were only two points behind at the end of normal time. That was the hardest thing to take.
We will watch with interest how Mayo fare against Dublin next weekend. It is disappointing that this young Donegal team did not get another outing in Croke Park against the Dubs. It would have been good experience for them.
Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack