Niall Carew takes 'slap on wrist' for Sligo woe
WHEN you've just shipped a 26-point beating, the buck stops with the boss and Niall Carew didn't shirk his share of culpability for this Connacht final mismatch.
"We probably have more of a structure up front than we do in defence, and that's down to us. So we'll certainly have to take a slap on the wrist for that," the Sligo manager (above) conceded.
"But you can only find out playing a top team," he added. And on yesterday's evidence, Mayo's change of management last autumn hasn't diminished their status as either Connacht monopolists or perennial All-Ireland challengers.
"Hindsight is always great," Carew reflected. "I suppose if you wanted to do something different, you probably would set up a bit more defensively.
"With the way Mayo played today, I don't think anything was going to stop them. They were a bit vulnerable at the back at times but, other than that, we struggled with their pace and we struggled in the tackle ... the lads know themselves that they probably didn't work as hard today as they did against Roscommon. That can be nerves. We have five lads who made their debut this year and ten lads playing in their first Connacht final."
The Kildare man described Aidan O'Shea as "immense inside", adding: "I think we tried four different markers on him. When we played a sweeper, we struggled with the runners. It's a big learning curve for us."
How much of a learning curve for Mayo, though, is open to serious question. Joint-manager Noel Connelly was "pleased" with most aspects but cautioned that Mayo must "up our game" defensively, with the distinct probability that Donegal or Tyrone are next up.
"We still conceded 2-11 - and three or four other chances where our 'keeper made great saves. We'd be very disappointed from that side of it," he admitted.
The fact that this team has now created a piece of five-in-a-row history "speaks for itself", but Connelly concluded: "The five-in-a-row is not the medal these boys are after, so they need to push on."
Last word to Aidan O'Shea: "We are young lads, just enjoying the opportunity to play football and we know we have the ability to go out and beat any team on our day. There was no way we were going to come back weaker (this season)."