You could cut the tension with a knife. Everyone was on edge wondering how would the fun-loving, stone-mad GAA fan handle the windswept conditions in Portrush.
He’s five up. A huge roar went up around Croke Park. The name of Lowry on everyone’s lips. On the big screen, his father Brendan holding his precious 1982 All-Ireland medal in his hand, promoting our wonderful game of football.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a wonderful game of football between Mayo and Meath. The players, like the supporters, were also on edge.
All seemed afraid of making mistakes which always leads to errors. Too many players lacked the belief in their own ability.
Meath were in control of this game but their inexperience was their downfall. In the opposition corner Mayo’s wealth of experienced players put this game to bed between the 47th and 62nd-minute with Andy Moran their commander-in-chief.
Moran gave the Mayo attack a focal point. He won every ball that was came his way. He assisted directly in 1-3 for Mayo as well as chipping in with a point to draw Mayo level when the game was in the melting pot. Like Shane Lowry, he too plays with adventure.
Every young forward should watch the quality of inside runs that Moran makes in order to gain that yard advantage.
Lots of forwards make 2-3 little darts and stop when the ball doesn’t come their way. Moran never stops and whether he receives the pass or not he unselfishly keeps making the runs. When Mayo needed a leader yesterday it was Andy Moran who won vital kick-outs and breaks and who scored and created scores.
Moran replaced Darren Coen at half-time which I felt was harsh on the starter.
Coen was playing up front as a lone ranger for the majority of the first half and he was having a great duel with Conor McGill. Coen, similar to Moran, won every ball that came his way and also set up points for Fergal Boland and Kevin McLaughlin.
He lost possession twice in the opening half but this was due to enormous pressure by the Meath full back-line of Lavin, McGill and Gallagher who defended heroically for the Royals.
Mayo must go for broke against Donegal in two weeks and I think Mayo should play both Coen and Moran in the full-forward line along with Cillian O’Connor.
With their ball-winning and scoring ability, Moran and Coen could form a deadly duo. Kevin McLaughlin snipping at centre-forward and the penetrating runs of Fionn McDonagh and Fergal Boland would keep the Donegal defenders on their toes.
There is a risk that Moran mightn’t have the legs for 70 minutes but there are bigger risks facing James Horan and his management team.
The biggest fear is that the westerners could concede a big score against Donegal. Their rearguard is holding on by a thread and they are becoming over-reliant on Colm Boyle and the two O’Sheas to sit deep and protect the backline.
Donal Keogan and Cillian O’Sullivan should have bagged two goals for Meath yesterday.
Keogan’s shot was bad technique whilst O’Sullivan showed a lack of conviction to shoot and instead slipped a pass to James Conlon for a point. Every-time Meath showed real belief and ran hard at the Mayo defence they looked like scoring. Direct running with support runners coming at angles had them in real trouble.
Meath’s problem was two-fold – they only showed patches of belief and their shooting technique was poor . If Meath had really gone after Mayo’s short kickouts, then they would have created several more certain scores. Crucially, they didn’t.
Notably Mayo relied heavily on securing short kickouts yesterday. There were successful for the majority of the game due to Meath’s refusal to push up. Donegal will have noticed that, in the final few minutes, when Meath applied real pressure that Mayo looked very vulnerable.
Will Donegal force David Clarke to go long with every kick-out which is not his strongest attribute? Will Harrison and Barrett have rediscovered their man-marking skills of old in order to snuff out Murphy, Brennan, McBrearty and the younghot-shot Oisin Gallen?
Mayo are desperately missing the leadership and pace of Paddy Durcan and are desperately trying to find their form of previous campaigns.
They’ve a fortnight to recharge and come up with a plan to defeat their once ally and now foe, Stephen Rochford.
And one wonders how will Rochford handle the pressure of plotting and planning to face his forme charges?
Possibly like our latest Major hero: in his stride and smiling all the way.
Shane Lowry brought broad smiles to everyone’s faces yesterday. And who knows maybe’s Offaly most famous son may get to grace Croke Park just like his dad did all those years ago.