On Sunday, Mayo will face off against Cavan in round five of the league in what is a crucial game for both sides, with up coming games against Tyrone in Omagh and Donegal in MacHale Park in the final rounds this is a must win game for Mayo to guarantee safety in division one while it will also condemn Cavan back to division two.
Tyrone and Donegal would like nothing more than to have a chance to send our guys down a division as it would more or less suck the life and confidence out of one of their potential threats later in the year. The other main reason Mayo need an authoritative performance and a victory is to help eradicate the memory of the performance in Croke Park against Dublin a fortnight ago. I still find it astonishing Mayo are being dismissed as no hopers by the majority of pundits and analysts after one calamitous performance. The only two teams mentioned now that could have a go at the Dubs are Tyrone and Kerry. Kerry have not exactly set the world alight either as they just about squeezed past 14 man Roscommon last time out in Hyde Park, needing 1-02 in injury time to claim victory. If you were to use recent results and current form, Kerry should not bother turning up for the championship either. The beauty of football is how opinions and predictions change after one performance, be it a good or bad one.
Cavan come calling
There is no doubt Mattie McGleenans' Cavan will arrive with all guns blazing as their division one status is firmly on the line, and should their manager's passion and enthusiasm rub off on their players Mayo will find themselves in a real scrap as they have to be somewhat fragile after the Croke Park shenanigans. Cavan find themselves second from bottom after one draw (against Monaghan ) and four losses, the most recent of which was their 0-19 to 1-09 loss to table toppers Tyrone in a rearranged fixture last weekend. Cavan put it up to Mickey Harte's team for the first half in particular but ultimately fell away in the second half. Gearoid McKiernan, the towering midfielder caused all sorts of problems for Tyrone scoring a very impressive 1-04 in the opening period. It took a specialist marking job from Cathal McCarron to curb his threat in the second half. Cavan also had to do without the injured Seanie Johnson and Padraig Faulkner along with suspended captain Killian Clarke. They all should be available for selection against Mayo. Despite being ahead by four points at the break Cavan capitulated in the second half as Tyrone scored 10 unanswered points for a comfortable victory. This should be a lesson for Mayo as patience could be the key to winning the game on Sunday.
Back in the daylight
This will be Mayo’s first league game of the year in daylight, having played the previous four on Saturday evenings under lights, which should attract a bumper crowd to MacHale Park. It will be interesting to see what tinkering Stephen Rochford does with the team after the flat performance in Croke Park. There will have to be some personnel changes to freshen things up, but I have no doubt all who took part against Dublin will want another chance to prove any doubters wrong and to also show their manager that they are up for the fight. The poor return from our forward line in Dublin will have required extra work at training for the last two weeks, as indeed will our defensive set up. Mayo are getting opened up far too easily and coughing up too many goal scoring chances. Mayo will not have to be as cautious as they normally would when they take on Cavan, and should it be a shoot out I would expect us to win handsomely. Cavan played with a mass defence against Tyrone who struggled to break them down in the first half however that high energy sapping tactic eventually took its toll as the floodgates opened in the second half. I expect something similar to happen on Sunday. Mayo are priced at 1/5 to win the game with the handicap betting set at -5. If the sod is dry I fully expect them to cover the handicap.
Schools' success continues
With the Mayo and Dublin game dominating last week's article I had not enough space to congratulate the girls and coaches from St Joseph's community college Charlestown on winning another All-Ireland basketball title for their school. It really is a marvellous achievement that they backed up their championship success with the league title as well, confirming their number one status. The league final was an epic battle with the team sneaking home on a scoreline of 30- 28 despite being behind for long periods. Well done to all.
This weekend is also a huge one for two other schools in the county, with St Colman's College, Claremorris, looking to book a spot in the Hogan Cup final (Senior A championship ) and Ballinrobe Community School looking to do the same in the senior B championship, both sides face tough encounters against Munster schools, with Colman's facing St Brendan's from Killarney and Ballinrobe taking on Coachford College from Cork.