The All Ireland quarterfinal is where Mayo wanted to be when the season threw in and they have got back there, they have taken a somewhat more circuitous route than they would have hoped, but that goal has been achieved. Mayo's championship form has been patchy all year, no more so than last weekend when they mixed the good with the bad, but they still got the result if not the full performance, they wanted to get there.
On Saturday afternoon, they will have to up their game significantly against the Ulster champions Tyrone, but there is no one involved in the Mayo camp who doesn't know that. Speaking after last Saturday's win, Mayo's most capped player Andy Moran spelt that out. "The way I look at is we got beat by Galway, we've played three games and are in the championship, we'll play Tyrone next week and we'll be ready for the battle, it will be tough battle," he said. "Did we play to the standards we wanted to today? Absolutely not."
His manager Stephen Rochford echoed the same sentiments saying: "[We're] disappointed with the the second half performance, but in the two previous games we finished very strong. We know that when we come up against the Ulster champions, you can't expect that level of performance to be good enough, there's nobody naive enough to think that's the case."
This Mayo group have come through an unfamiliar route of making the last eight, having come through the early rounds of the backdoor system, and Moran said that it has allowed them to learn about themselves, albeit they would have liked to go use the most direct route to the last eight. "We'd have like to have beaten Galway, but I've been involved a very long time and I've never had a run in the qualifiers like this, it's different, you win and you win and we won that game and it allows us to go and prepare for next week."
One area that Mayo will have to improve on is their discipline in the tackle, something that Rochford pointed out himself after the game: "What was most disappointing was giving away needless frees, tugging jerseys when there was no threat. The likes of that will be asking for trouble." In the first half last weekend Westmeath had 11 shots from placed balls at the goal, converting seven of them and their first five shots in the game were all from frees. If Mayo give away a similar amount of scorable frees on Saturday against Tyrone they will be asking for trouble.
At the other end of the field, Mayo racked up 3-15 their biggest scoring return of the year so far and now have a total of 7-46 in the scored column from their qualifier games so far an average return of just over 22 points per game enough to win most games, those wins were against much lesser quality sides than they will face on Saturday. But there is still much for Mayo to work on in attack as the took just less than 50 per cent of their scoring efforts last Saturday and the first half in particular they were misfiring, as Stephen Rochford admitted afterwards. "The first half we scored 2-10, created another seven or eight chances, it was disappointing to give away the goal before half time, we'll review that how it came about," he said. "We put three balls into the goalies hands and seven wides in the first half, so you take that is 22 shots on goal over the course of that 37 minutes"
At the back is where Mayo will be looking to shore things up for tomorrow, the return to action of Chris Barrett late on is a welcome addition to the Mayo rearguard. If fit to start, the Belmullett man could add some much needed experience to a full back line which has been doing well, but is missing the leadership and experience of Ger Cafferkey (injured ), and Keith Higgins who has been deployed further out the field this year. In front of the full back line, Mayo supporters will be hoping to see more from Lee Keegan and Patrick Durcan; while both were solid the last day, there is much more in the pair of them.
Up front Cillian O'Connor kicked 1-5 for Mayo including three from play, but he still missed more than half the shots he took in the game which is a concern, but his overall contribution to the game was invaluable to Mayo's success. The absence of his brother Diarmuid with a dead leg last weekend was a blow to Mayo as his dynamic running is central to a lot of good things Mayo have done this year so far. If Mayo are to see off Tyrone and book a semi-final spot with Tipperary, last years young player of they year, will be needed you would have to expect.
Andy Moran has had a great impact since coming back into the starting fold, his all-action running game had the Westmeath defence in knots at times last weekend, and while he chipped in with two points from play he got involved in a good few more scores, his first half performance in particular was top class. Barry Moran had a big game coming on from the bench winning primary possession at vital times, while Conor O'Shea also fielded two great balls when he came on. So Mayo know they have options from the sideline come Saturday. All we have to do now is wait and see how it all pans out come Saturday afternoon