Mayo heading up to Down

GAA: All Ireland Senior Football Championship

Down on his mind: James Horan will have been getting ready for the challenge that Down will pose since the qualifier draw was made on Monday morning. Photo: Sportsfile

Down on his mind: James Horan will have been getting ready for the challenge that Down will pose since the qualifier draw was made on Monday morning. Photo: Sportsfile

The waiting and the wondering came to an end on Monday morning, when Mayo were pulled out of the bowl alongside Down, in the draw for the second round of the All Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifiers.

The GAA confirmed on Tuesday that the game would take place at 7pm on Saturday week in Páirc Esler in Newry.

Both sides were knocked out of their respective provincial championships by near neighbours, with Down being shown the door in Ulster by Armagh at the quarter-final stage, going down 3-13 to 2-17 after extra time. Donal O’Hare and Paul Devlin were their top scorers that day hitting 1-2 each while Pat Havern hit 1-1.

That defeat sent Armagh into the first round of the qualifiers last weekend where they dispatched of Tipperary at home 1-13 to 1-10 to record their first win in the qualifier series since 2014. Havern and O’Hare were once again the main men on the scoreboard, with the former hitting 0-3 from play and the latter bagging his side's goal, while Cory Quinn also hit three points for the Mourne men in their victory.

Mayo have only met Down once before in championship action – back in 2012 at the quarter-final stage of the competition – a game won handily by Mayo on a score of 3-18 to 2-9.

While the game as a whole might not be remembered that well, it will stay in the mind of Mayo supporters as the day that Andy Moran picked up a season-ending cruciate injury. Five players who started for Mayo that day - Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty all started for Mayo against Roscommon.

Andy Moran came on as a sub against Roscommon and Colm Boyle was an unused sub last time out both started that day and Chris Barrett, another starter from the Roscommon defeat, came on against Down seven years ago in Croke Park.

Mayo’s most recent meeting with Down came in the National Football League in Castlebar three years ago, where Mayo picked up two vital points to maintain their status in a top flight – but made very hard work of it. Mayo went from seven points up and cruising to holding on at the end to see out the game.

Half-a-dozen of Mayo’s starters from the Connacht semi-final defeat three weeks ago started in that game, Brendan Harrision, Chris Barrett, Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea, Jason Doherty and Evan Regan. The latter was the star of the show on the scoreboard hitting nine points over the 70 minutes – with seven of them coming from placed balls.

The last time that Mayo made the long journey to Newry was in March 2013, when the hosts ran out 0-13 to 0-11 winners on a rainy Spring night in the north east. Jason Doherty was the top scorer for Mayo that night, hitting four points.

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