Ahead of the Down clash this weekend in Croke Park, Mayo captain Andy Moran has stated that the Connacht side have been concentrating on their own game and have made it a policy not to worry about the opposition until the quarter-final draw was made.
we’re a much improved team, insists captain MoranIn the thick of it: Down’s Benny Coulter in action against Tipperary at the weekendINPHOAHEAD of the Down clash this weekend in Croke Park, Mayo captain Andy Moran has stated that the Connacht side have been concentrating on their own game and have made it a policy not to worry about the opposition until the quarter-final draw was made.
“We're just fine-tuning our own game-plan really,” the Ballaghadereen clubman said. Reflecting on the Connacht final win over Sligo, he explained, “I think against Sligo there wasn't really anything that happened that we didn't perform. In the first half our first touch was probably a tiny bit off and our gameplan was a tiny bit off.”
Mayo overcame Sligo to capture the Nestor Cup, but their preparations were off-railed when Conor Mortimor, Mayo's all-time leading scorer, pulled out of the panel during that week.
The story took another twist when Mortimor's father, Frank, called up Mid West Radio to dictate a statement that was later read out on air three days before the final.
The subject wasn't something that Moran was going to be drawn on.
Instead, he pointed to the improvement in the Mayo squad from last year when they defeated Cork in a gripping All-Ireland quarter-final, before a nine-point defeat to Kerry in the semi-final.
“I think we definitely have a stronger squad,” Moran commented, “and as we seen when it matters, when you have the likes of Aidan ÓShea and these guys coming off the bench We definitely have a better squad, we've added a few new guys to it and when you are going to be playing against the likes of Down, you need a bit extra.”
Down became only the second team in the history of the qualifiers to bounce back from a provincial final defeat last weekend when they got the better of Tipperary in Saturday's round four match in Mullingar.
Afterwards, goalscorer Benny Coulter paid tribute to how Down manager James McCartan took unusual steps in the aftermath of the Ulster final defeat to Donegal to shield his players from any negativity.
“James kept us in the Canal Court on Sunday night and we done a session on Monday morning,” he revealed.
“We stayed in there until three o'clock in the day, had a chat, had dinner and then went home and were back out at it on Tuesday night. We had everything out of the road on Monday morning.
“I suppose as the years go by, I would have done it myself where you had a qualifying game and you went on the p*** for a day or two after and mess the whole thing up. But James, Aidan [O'Rourke] and Jerome [Johnston] kept us in the Canal Court on Sunday night and we got it out of our system, had a pool session and stuff like that.”
He continued: “James got everything out of the road on Monday morning, talked about what we did wrong, and not to be listening to people on the street.
“They went through the match with us and showed how we stayed with Donegal for 50 or 55 minutes and then we just went to pieces in the last fifteen minutes or so.
“We returned to training on Tuesday night, everybody was upbeat and was mad to get going. James just nailed it on and he got it perfect.”
Coulter also took his Championship record in the qualifiers to 9-37, his latest goal pushing him further ahead as the top Championship goalscorer in Ulster.
As he admits, he will be lucky to pick up another goal as handy, but he is too modest to admit that his predatory instincts determined that he was the right man in the right place.
“The ball came in, I think Kevin Duffin hit it in, and wee Lav [Conor Laverty] got a tap-on and I just palmed it in.
“It fell to me and I tapped it in and I suppose you will take those goals all day long, probably one of the easiest goals I have ever got, but I'll take it!”
Coming through a full game was crucial to Coulter, after his stunted Championship season.
“I got 70 minutes there and thankfully I stuck it out. I feel great and thankfully James kept me on. It will bring me on and I will be ready for next week.”
It was announced yesterday that Laois referee Maurice Deegan will take charge of Saturday's game.
Deegan recently found himself in the middle of controversy when Eoin O'Gara's point in the Leinster final was waved wide by the umpire, only for Deegan — who was acting as linesman — to correct referee Marty Duffy.