By Mark Higgins
The Mayo ladies are ‘two to three weeks’ behind their competitors in Division 1 of the National League in terms of the body of work they have put down in pre-season.
That’s according to their manager, Michael Moyles, who said after Mayo’s defeat to Cork in Round 1 of the league last Sunday that his players will need to make up ground quickly if they are to avoid getting caught up in a relegation battle. They have an opportunity to make up some of that ground this Saturday when hosting Kerry at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence (12.45pm).
Mayo lost by five at the same venue last Sunday, Cork’s winning margin burnished to a certain extent by Katie Quirke’s injury-time goal. But the hosts had been way off the pace for the first 40-odd minutes of this encounter and had trailed by eight points early in the second-half before they embarked on a gallant if ultimately unsuccessful comeback.
“We know we’re two or three weeks behind where we should be,” stated Moyles after the final whistle.
“We left it a bit later coming back because the girls have to have a life as well. With the split season, they’re finishing with their clubs, they’re starting back with their colleges, so we didn’t start back until December with the main group.
“The first couple of rounds of the league are going to be difficult for us. But I think you could see from the first-half to the second-half, the improvement. And that’s what we’re looking for. The league is all about finding out. We had two or three debutantes, every team is doing that.
“But that’s where we’re at; we’re three weeks behind where we need to be so we’re going to need to put the foot down and make sure we survive the league while learning some good lessons,” he continued.
Mayo had been well off the pace in the opening period of the match, unable to handle Cork’s running power up the middle of the field and far too wayward in their use of the ball in attack.
“We were probably lucky to be in the game until the goal,” said Moyles. “For the goal, we had turned the ball over, Ciara Needham was coming out and looked up and there was nothing. She got turned over and two passes later, it’s in the back of the net. That put a sort of buffer between them and us.
“Those are the small things we need to learn. The hard running that we talked about last year against Galway in the championship, we need to have that again. Maybe it’s just not in the legs quite yet, but we’re working on it.”
To Mayo’s credit, they did turn the game around quite dramatically in the second period; they had their deficit pared back to just two points in the closing minutes of the hour and could even have claimed a very unlikely victory had goal chances for Tara Needham or Hannah Reape found the back of the net.
Moyles said he was happy with the response his players produced after such a poor first-half.
“A couple of times we got two or three points in-a-row and there was a breaking ball that came off a hand, and they broke up and got a score. Sometimes it comes down to those small parts of a game,” he offered.
“But yeah, I’d rather take a very positive second-half and a poor first-half than the other way around, because at least now we have something to build on towards Kerry.”
That Round 2 meeting with Kerry today will now take on some extra pressure, given that Mayo then face into three consecutive away games. Moyles accepted that his team could end up needing every point they can get.
“We have Kerry, then Waterford down in Waterford, then Meath, the All-Ireland champions away, Dublin away, then Galway and Donegal; there is going to be a big name going down to Division 2 next year, that’s just the way it is,” he said.
“We’re going to be scrapping for every point that we can get. And there are going to be days like today when it just doesn’t go your way.
“I think in the first-half we left ourselves with way too much to do and that’s not good enough for a Mayo inter-county team, so we have to look at that,” he concluded.