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Back when Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly took charge of the Mayo u21s for the first time in 2006, Keith Higgins was the man who they entrusted as their leader on the field. When the duo took the reins of the senior team this year it was the Ballyhaunis man they looked to again to be their battlefield commander. Higgins has been one of the finest defenders in the game over the best part of the last decade and he knows despite what others may say about the championship proper only beginning in August, it kicked off in earnest a long time ago. "If you're a Mayo player and you see the draw coming out and you see you've Galway in Salthill, that's where the championship starts no matter how good your record has been the last few years. That's championship stuff and that's what gets you going. You ask the Donegal boys and they'll say the same thing when they'd to play Tyrone in the first round at the end of May. They can't be thinking ahead to August. But August is where you want to be."
On the field of play, last weekend provided further evidence that Mayo are one of the teams to beat this year. They have a better balance up front with Aidan O'Shea in at full-forward, and they carry much more penetration in their inside forward line with the Breaffy man in there. What county defender can stop the Breaffy man in one-on-one combat?
On Saturday week (August 1), the Round 4B qualifiers, between Galway and Donegal, and Sligo and Tyrone, have been fixed as a double header in Croke Park - with the Galway game due to throw in at 6pm.
Mayo used 21 players yesterday on the field in their historic win over Sligo as they picked up their fifth Connacht title on the bounce, we run our eye over the performance of all those 21 players.
Diarmuid O'Connor is the only potential doubt for Mayo ahead of their Connacht Senior Football Championship final against Sligo next weekend, but joint Mayo manager Noel Connelly expects the Ballintubber man to get over his fractured wrist in time for the game. Connelly said this week: "Diarmuid O'Connor has a slight hairline fracture on his wrist, he's a x-ray during the week, but all the indications are that he's fine and will be fit to play. But he hasn't been playing contact football with us since the Connacht semi-final, and he hasn't played for Ballintubber in either of the club championship games, but we're hoping to have him this weekend. If not, if the doctors say to be better not to chance him for the [training] game on Sunday we won't, but we're still hoping to have him for selection the next weekend."
After this weekends final round of action in the group stages of the Mayo GAA Senior Football Championship we now know the eight sides who’ll be contesting the knock-out stages. Breaffy, Castlebar Mitchels, Ballintubber and Kiltane all won their groups and Knockmore, Ballina Stephenites, Aghamore and Garrymore joined them after finishing in second place in their respective groups.
There had not been one shock so far in the first round of the All-Ireland football championship, a few landslide victories that we did not see coming, but no underdog eliminating any overwhelming favourite from their provincial championship. That all changed last Saturday evening in Markevicz Park in Sligo where the home side completely outplayed and outfought a Roscommon side that seemed to believe all their own hype.
Mayo continued their dominance over fiercest Connacht rivals Galway with a hard fought four point win in Salthill last Sunday. Galway, obviously reeling after four successive defeats against the green and red set the tone early on with some big hits as they let the visitors know they were not going to roll over this time around.
Mayo made it five wins in a row in Salthill last Sunday against Galway in the first real test of the Holmes and Connelly era with a bit to spare. While the gap was only four points at full time whistle in reality, Mayo always had the Tribesmen fended off apart from a brief period at the tail end of the first-half that culminated with Gary Sice's thunderbolt of a goal.