Boyle was wronged but it’s a measure of the man that he harnesses the slight as a call for improvement on his part.
“Maybe I left the hand in there a small bit long or whatever. Some people might say it was a soft free. But whether it was or not it was given. That was it, unfortunately.”
The pain for Boyle was compounded by the fact Mayo had worked so hard on perfecting the tackle under Donie Buckley. As the Kerry native’s brief has grown this year, he’s had more of an influence on the players.
“The last day, myself included, we gave away a couple of soft frees to Donegal towards the end of the first- half and the start of the second-half. We pride ourselves on the tackle.
“There are going to be a couple of incidents when it’s not always perfect but generally we try and not foul.”
At the same time, Boyle and his fellow defenders can’t legislate for what a referee may interpret is and isn’t a foul. “I suppose that’s the thing,” he shrugs. “You’re nearly waiting for 10 or 15 minutes in to see what the ref is giving on a certain day. Some refs beforehand might give certain points to the captain about what they’re looking out for. They could be three totally different points than the ones you got in the game before. It can be difficult at times but generally they’re just trying to do their best.”
As Mayo have worked towards lowering their score concessions, it’s hardly surprising Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly have turned to diligent Boyle to “mind the house” and sweep. He performed similar duties under James Horan but the role seems more pronounced in this championship.
He insists brakes haven’t been put on him but says: “I’ve been trying to hold a bit more. That doesn’t say I’m not allowed to go (forward) if it opens up. It goes for everyone on the pitch. The lads are always encouraging us to attack and someone else will cover.”
Marking space has it difficulties, though. “It can be hard because you can find yourself ball watching maybe and not looking at what’s happening around the place. The main thing is to keep the concentration when you’re doing it. It might look easy but sometimes you can lose yourself and be out of position.”
After the Connacht championship where they shipped four goals in two games, a meeting was called. As Boyle recalls: “We sat down as a group of defenders the week after that and we all spoke about it. We weren’t happy with how we coughed up some handy scores on the day. Sligo forwards played well considering the amount of ball that was actually being fed in but we weren’t happy.
“They were two sloppy goals and it followed on from the Galway game where we felt we gave away a couple of slopping goals as well. It’s something we talked about alright.”
The clean sheet and 11 points conceded to Donegal was a good day at the office even if Boyle qualifies: “Donegal probably felt they wouldn’t have played anything near their potential and that might have a bit to do with it as well. We probably defended better than we have done this year as well but Donegal kicked a couple of wides and I know they had a goal chance at the end of the first-half just before we got our goal.”
The backs taking it upon themselves to find a solution tells how self- motivated this Mayo group are. As Boyle says, it wasn’t just a case of the new management this year getting to know the players but the other way around too. “They had to get used to the way we go about things too. They mightn’t have been used to that before and we weren’t used to them so, yeah, it took a bit of time. As the year has gone on, we have gelled a bit better.”
As the panel has grown alongside one another these last five seasons, they’ve also been able to work in tandem in various systems of play as exemplified by Barry Moran’s from-left-field sweeper role against Donegal. “I think we have players who can play in certain positions,” says Boyle. “In the past maybe we tended to line out as we were from game to game. Maybe we have moved on from that a small bit now and try to mix it up a bit.”