Apart from their pitiful last two performances, what are the most worrying signs for Mayo? That goalkeeper David Clarke, 34 in November, has been their best player in three of their five games thus far (if the All-Stars were picked tonight, he would be brushing off the monkey suit)?
That Andy Moran, also 34 in November, has been next best? Danny Kirby was their star performer against Cavan last Sunday but Mayo are in need of another scoring forward (no, he doesn’t have to be marquee). Kirby could be what Tom Parsons became two years ago. A team spilling over with midfielders is unlikely to improve Mayo.
Stephen Coen and Conor Loftus are future stars but at this early juncture in their senior careers they can’t be expected to get the team out of this funk.
Mayo replacements have a long-running inability to make an impact coming off the bench. Outside of their victory over lowly Roscommon when substitutes contributed six points (all from play), Shane Nally is the only scoring non-starting player in this campaign with a point against Cavan.
In last year’s league, subs contributed just six points from play. With one point, Alan Dillon was the only replacement to score across the two final games against Dublin compared to the six points Dublin’s reserves managed.
From an attacking perspective, what you see from Mayo at the start of the game is usually what you get. And when that starting forward line is outscored by Dublin’s defence four points to none, it is time to be alarmed.
Stephen Rochford and his media co-ordinator Liam Horan have handled the fall-out from Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes’ combustible interview as well as can be expected. When questions about his predecessors’ comments have been put to him, Rochford has addressed the matter a couple of times but the players haven’t really had to talk about it.
They are clearly being protected and the message seems to be that Mayo are moving on. Yet, regardless of how this Division 1 campaign finishes, they won’t wash themselves of it. It may very well be that Connelly and Holmes’ act of sabotage is not the elephant in the dressing room but the perception is that it continues to trumpet loud among them.
It seems like news to some that Mayo work in two pods at this time of year but Seamus O’Shea, who is among approximately a third of the panel based in Dublin, bemoaned the bi-location issue at the start of last year. “You’re heading home on a Friday anyway so it’s not too bad.
The Tuesday is the killer. You’re home late around 1am, you’re getting to bed late and you’re probably not sleeping well. You’re then up at 6.30 or 7am for work and supposed to be doing a gym session that night.” He added: “When Dublin get together on a Tuesday night, we don’t do that until May.
It’s a massive advantage and something we have to work around.” Mayo are never going to be as cohesive as other teams in the early months when they are so divided. Not since 2014 in James Horan’s last year in charge have Mayo been competitive in Division 1.
Mayo’s only goal of the campaign has come from a penalty, Cillian O’Connor’s effort against Roscommon. Remarkably, Lee Keegan’s first-half goal against Dublin in last October’s All-Ireland final replay is their only three-pointer from open play in over 500 minutes of league and championship football.
Moran is a proven goal-scorer as is Cillian O’Connor but Moran prefers now to show for ball in the channels and O’Connor is playing deeper.
Mayo were in a tighter spot at this stage last year than they are now. But for wins in their final two rounds, they would be in Division 2 now. Had the final relegation spot not been between Mayo, Monaghan and Cork and instead Mayo and Cork, Rochford’s men would have gone down on the basis of head-to-head criteria.
The year before, they were embarrassed by Dublin in Castlebar as they were in Croke Park earlier this month and yet forced Dublin to an All-Ireland semi-final replay.
Understandably, supporters want indications now that things will be better later in the year but it won’t be until the clocks go forward tomorrow morning that Aidan and Seamus O’Shea, Ger Cafferkey and Chris Barrett make their seasonal debuts. With cuckoo comes the cavalry.