The 27-year-old shining in the Mayo attack after finally delivering on his potential

September 19, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

THE SIGHT OF Andy Moran warming the bench for the full 70 minutes in Limerick on Saturday night gives an indication of Mayo’s increased strength in depth this season.

The 2017 Footballer of the Year had already set-up Fionn McDonagh’s goal when he was whipped off before half-time in the previous round against Armagh. Conor Loftus, also scoreless from play, was replaced during the third quarter of that tie.

Neither player was required for the round 4 defeat of Galway. 

James Horan showed his ruthless streak, instead introducing substitutes Ciaran Treacy, Evan Regan and Lee Keegan into the forward line to help see out the game.

Moran was hardly pleased to be taken off so early against Armagh and a failure to see any action against Galway would have further frustrated the 35-year-old. You can imagine how he’ll attack training this week as he looks to force his way up the pecking order for Sunday’s trip to Killarney.

Horan instead handed Cillian O’Connor his first start of the year, forming a potent inside line with 2019 newcomers Darren Coen and James Carr. They contributed 2-9 of Mayo’s 2-13 between them and dove-tailed well up front despite their lack of game-time playing together.

James Carr celebrate scoring the first goal.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Coen is technically not a newcomer – he made his first championship start for Mayo back in 2013 during Horan’s first reign. But injuries and a loss of form delayed his inter-county career from taking off. He’s back on the panel this year and keen to make up for lost time.

Now 27, Coen is finally delivering on his potential. Carr’s two-goal display naturally grabbed the headlines at the weekend. His second green flag is the leading candidate for the goal of the championship so far and surely one of the greatest ever witnessed in the Gaelic Grounds. 

“Some goal, wasn’t it?” Coen said of his team-mate. “He’s a top quality player. To get two goals in a championship game against Galway – you dream of that stuff growing up.

“Especially the second one, right in the top bin.”

Man-of-the-match Coen quietly went about his business with a three-point haul, giving him 0-12 from play in just over three games so far this summer. (He was black-carded 14 minutes into the Down game).

Having scored just three points over three league appearances, he’s beginning to look comfortable as a Mayo footballer now.

“Happy enough at the minute,” he said of his form. 

“I suppose I worked hard this year to get back into the panel, got a lucky break this year, got a few league games under my belt and just keep it ticking over.

“It’s a tough battle to get into that team. Cillian was back tonight. Any time you’ve a player of the calibre of Cillian O’Connor, you know you’re going to be looking over your shoulder. Look, we’re driving on for next weekend. Looking forward to it.”

Cillian O’Connor strokes over a free.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Even when things didn’t come off for the Hollymount/Carramore ace, the net result was positive for Mayo. In the sixth minute, his weak shot at the posts dropped short. Carr was lurking in front of Bernard Power however, and he managed to pounce on the keeper’s mistake to turn the ball home. 

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The addition of Coen into the Mayo full-forward line has seen their style of play evolve under Horan. With a side built around powerful athletes, they’ve always been a strong running team. 

Yet Mayo have struggled to break down Galway’s defensive system in the past with that gameplan. In their seven previous meetings across all competitions, the Tribesmen shipped an average of just 0-6 from play.

On Saturday they conceded 2-8 from play, a significant jump. Among the reasons for that was Mayo’s increased willingness to kick the ball long with a target man of Coen’s height and strength inside alongside the returning O’Connor.

He’s also a quality striker of the ball and is highly efficient at kicking scores after coming around on the loop, which could be useful for Mayo this weekend when they travel to Fitzgerald Stadium.

Having witnessed how Cork put three goals past Kerry’s rearguard in the Munster final by running the ball, Mayo will likely opt for a similar tactic in the Super 8s opener. 

Cork’s Ruairi Deane exposed some gaps in the Kerry defence.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Kieran Donaghy made an interesting observation recently when he was asked why Kerry seem easily cut open by a running game.

“It’s no coincidence we struggle with teams that run at us because we don’t really do a lot of running at us ourselves in training,” the Kerry legend said on Off The Ball in June.

“What we want to play is kick the ball and move the ball. Most teams are mixing it up now so we can’t be as naive and just think that everybody’s going to kick the ball against us. It’s going to be a bit of both.”

Mayo’s direct running game will draw the Kerry defenders out, which gives them the option of directing the odd high ball into Coen when it’s on.

Kerry manager Peter Keane and coach Tommy Griffin took in the game from the Mackey Stand at the weekend and will be well aware of the threat that Coen poses.

“They were planning for the Super 8s,” said Coen. “They are going to be peaking at the right time. It’s up to us to match their work-rate and intensity. If we do that we’ll be in with a chance.

“It’s my first time going down to it (Fitzgerald Stadium),” he added. “Looking forward to it.

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“It’s a nice pitch. Big, open spaces and good for a forward. A defender might tell you different. Top quality stadium.

“You won’t get anything easy down there, that’s for sure.”

The Kerry defence won’t be getting anything on a plate either, with Coen in this sort of form.

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