Five games down and two to go for Mayo as they try to maintain their division one status in the National Football League. With a win and two draws under their belts they currently sit in the peculiar position of fourth place in the table, but due to the tight pack of three behind them, are not safe from the drop. Mayo are involved in a shoot out with Dublin, Donegal, and Tyrone to avoid being the side who join point-less Westmeath through the trapdoor to division two.
This weekend Mayo will make the short hop south of the border to take on Galway in a must-win game for both sides. While Mayo need the points to stay up, Liam Sammon's side are looking to book their place in the latter stages of the competition. Galway are currently sitting a point behind Kerry in the table following their draw with Derry last weekend, which ended their perfect record in the competition up to that point. With the under-21s in action last weekend and their clash with Roscommon going to extra time, John O'Mahony was forced not to consider a number of players for starting berths in the side for the second week in a row. The only under-21 who made an appearance last weekend was Aidan O'Shea, whose late intervention saved the day for Mayo on the scoreboard.
Mayo had to show plenty of heart and passion in the Dublin game, according to O'Mahony, and that kind of effort will be needed again this weekend against Galway. “I've mixed emotions really from the Dublin game, I'm disappointed we didn't get more out of it, but relieved that we got the draw. I have to give our lads huge credit: It wasn't a game that was free flowing or we particularly played well in. But it was heart and passion and commitment to the cause that kept us in the game. We had a slow start but then we got to grips with it and we were only two points down at half time. But then in the second half we didn't take advantage of the breeze we had and we had to batten down the hatches and come up with an equaliser at the end which is a great tribute to young Aidan O'Shea, considering the weekend he's had.”
Galway in scoring form
Galway have been in free scoring form for the league so far and currently have a points difference of plus 22 from their five games, while Mayo have a difference of plus four. Last weekend saw Dublin race into a 0-5 to 0-0 lead early on, following on from Kerry getting a early run of points the previous week. But O'Mahony doesn't think that anything really went wrong in the early stages and points out that it's still very early in the year. “Nothing really went wrong, to be honest I thought that we came to grips after 10 or so minutes that Dublin were dominating possession and that they were physically stronger than us. We adjusted our plan and we got Mark Ronaldson back covering the defence and I thought he was outstanding in that role. There was huge commitment and of course we'd love to be playing lovely free flowing football, but it's March.”
Having to deal without a number of key players that he sees as being a key part of the squad is something that O'Mahony might have to deal with again this weekend as the under-21s prepare for a Connacht final, but he sees a great unity building in the squad. “I think there was a great unity of purpose in the lads again today and we had our under-21s with us also. We didn't want to over burden any of the lads, we had Aidan O'Shea on the bench and we felt he would give us that option on the edge of the square which it did. I would hope that our hand would be stronger than this weekend, with the under-21s not having a game but we have to do that in consultation with the management team of the under-21s.”
There are plenty battles left in store before the end of the league and the Mayo manager knows that nothing will come easy in any of the final two games and he wants his side concentrating on their own football not what can happen elsewhere. “ Whatever happened against Dublin we are going to have to battle for our lives against Galway this weekend and we’re going to have to battle for our lives again against Tyrone in a fortnight’s time. The one thing that we had to do today was to focus on what we could do on the field and not on the permutations coming from other games.”