It's not what we expected to happen and it's not ideal but we have no choice but to accept the challenge of trying to reach the super 8's via the qualifier route.
I like many thought we would be preparing for a Connacht final showdown with Galway in Pearse stadium on Sunday week. Instead we wait anxiously for Monday mornings draw when we find out where our treacherous journey will start and hopefully not end.
Just to make people aware, Mayo cannot get drawn against a losing Provincial semi-finalist in Monday's draw, so they cannot be pitted against Sligo for example and more importantly we cannot be drawn against the losers of Saturday's Ulster semi final between Donegal and Tyrone or indeed Cavan or Armagh.
The majority of the teams in the first round of the qualifiers are from division three and four meaning the likelihood of us having an away game is very high as division one and two teams from this years league have to forfeit home advantage even if drawn out of the bowl first against one of those teams. I have no doubt the GAA have put in place a strict set of rules and guidelines so there is no nonsense like there was last year with the “Newbridge or Nowhere” fiasco. Lets face it, Mayo are the box office team in the qualifiers and grounds will have to be capable of catering for the large support that will follow.
Of those teams from the lower divisions, Down and Derry would surely provide the stiffest of tests and even Westmeath could prove a tricky obstacle that is of course as long as they all come through their games this weekend. Don't rule out a game against John Maughan's Offaly either if they navigate their tie against London. It's a very strange scenario for Mayo.
Only two short weeks ago we were many neutrals favourites to topple the Dubs', now we are talking about getting a kind draw in a qualifier to get the wheels back on the cart. The only good thing to come out of the first round draw is the fact that Monaghan and Fermanagh are playing each other this weekend meaning it's one less dangerous team that Mayo could face. The nightmare scenario would be a round two game against Monaghan in Clones or secondly a game against an ultra defensive Fermanagh in Brewster Park should they surprise the Farney men.
Whatever team Mayo are drawn against, they will have a win under their belts, their confidence back and the scar tissue of their loss in their Province removed whilst also knowing Mayo will be fragile and under pressure to perform. They maybe even feel Mayo are there for the taking. Perish the thought.
Upon leaving Elverys MacHale Park after the Roscommon defeat bewildered and shell shocked, a number of supporters stopped me in the pouring rain asking me questions they felt I knew the answers to.
What's the story with Cillian O Connor? Was Colm Boyle fit to play? Why wasn't James Carr in the match day 26. I had a simple answer for them all. “I have no idea”. It seems to be a GAA psyche that the less information that is revealed by a team surrounding the status of injured players that it gives them a psychological edge over their opponents/future opponents. As a Mayo supporter/pundit it's very frustrating not knowing and still not knowing the answer to those questions.
If a soccer or Rugby international or a premiership footballer picks up an injury in a game or gets injured at training the relevant manager gives an accurate post match/training update on that players welfare/prognosis and everybody knows when we are likely to see that player again. I don't think it's a lot to ask for a bit of clarity in this situation.
Not knowing sends the rumour mill into overdrive with stories getting legs and then being totally exaggerated. I for one expected to see Cillian O'Connor in this years league, never mind not see him in the Connacht championship. I was told last February he was making great progress and that he wasn't far away from being match fit. It's now June and still no sign of him. I don't expect every little secret to be disclosed and discussed in public, just a bit of clarity on the injury front.
As one of the biggest marketing sporting brands in the country with no question the best supporters, it's time those die hard supporters who would re mortgage their houses to watch Mayo play are given sufficient and relevant information on the team they support besides having to hear it third hand. I was even told at the Roscommon match that Cillian was in Sweden and got a green light from Zlatan Ibrahamovics surgeon to play against Roscommon, I don't know what to believe any more? There is a strong bond between Mayo GAA and their supporters, that bond needs to be kept in tact.