Time for Mayo to get back on the road

GAA: All Ireland SFC Qualifier

Time to get moving again: Stephen Rochford will be hoping that Mayo get moving in the right direction tomorrow evening. Photo: Sportsfile

Time to get moving again: Stephen Rochford will be hoping that Mayo get moving in the right direction tomorrow evening. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo supporters were hoping that this weekend would be one for making preparations for the Connacht final in a weeks time, but it's the long road for the faithful - for a second year in a row. Being knocked out of Connacht by Galway for a second successive year is what happened and tomorrow evening in MacHale Park - Derry come calling and there is no room for error anymore.

Of course Mayo have been here before as recently as last year and things worked out pretty well from there, but while last years loss to Galway was a bolt from the blue, after so many years of dominance in Connacht, this years defeat will have stung a bit more - because Mayo did a lot of things right against Galway and if wasn't for some simple mistakes, like Keith Higgins getting a red card and a goal chance that wasn't taken when it came up, Mayo could very easily be looking forward to welcoming Roscommon to Castlebar next weekend.

Mayo weren't very far away at all when it came to the crunch last September, but this year bar the second half against Donegal and a top class display in Omagh, they haven't really hit the heights that the players and management all know they are capable of reaching. It's getting back to that level that performance those level of performances that Mayo need to get to - starting tomorrow evening.

On paper Derry at home looks like a pretty decent draw, they were relegated to division three with just two wins to their name in the league, they were easily dismissed by Tyrone in the Ulster champioinship - before seeing off Waterford in round one of the qualifiers. But if the Oak Leaf men come to Castlebar with a defensive game plan, it will give a Mayo side who this year have failed to really master it plenty of questions to answer.

First off Mayo will be without Keith Higgins' for Saturday, even looking back at Mayo's loss to Galway, having to play with 14 men after Higgins's was rightly shown a straight red card - seriously curtailed the short-kick-out strategy that Mayo like to play. Brendan Harrision sat that one out after picking up a hamstring injury, but the Aghamore All Star should be back in harness for this one. The make up of the rest of the defence is one thing everyone will be keeping an eye on, with Colm Boyle - being stood down for the Galway game for tactical reasons, the omission of the three time All Star had everyone talking before throw-in - in Salthill. With rumours about the full fittness of both Lee Keegan and Ger Cafferkey circulating following club championship action a fortnight ago, who will make up the Mayo back six is something that everyone will keep an eye on.

Of course what to do with Aidan O'Shea is another question Mayo supporters and pundits alike have been asking, firstly he isn't fully fit - so the big question is, do Mayo start him and look to have the game put away with time to spare and give him a rest ahead of another potential outing a week later or leave him on the bench and spring him with 30 minutes to go, the sight of him getting ready to roll into the action is something that is will easily bring one of the biggest roars from the crowd tomorrow afternoon. But leaving that all aside where do you position him, midfield, centre-half-forward or full-forward. The middle third, could be a bit to much work for him, when not fully fit, but if he is put in on the edge of the square - getting the right ball into him and having players running off him is also essential.

Last year Mayo found themselves in the qualifiers and we all know how that ended up, another bout of finding themselves begins again tomorrow evening.

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