Mayo face into testing encounter on Saturday evening

GAA: All Ireland Senior Football Championship

Gone in the blink of an eye: Mayo do not want to be out of the championship quick as a flash this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Gone in the blink of an eye: Mayo do not want to be out of the championship quick as a flash this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

There is no room for error from here on in for Mayo.

After the success in claiming the National League title in the spring, most thought that at this stage of the season Mayo would be on the back end of a Connacht final last weekend and either getting their plans in place for the Super 8s or at worst preparing for a final round qualifier game to get to the business end of the championship.

But Roscommon put paid to those plans last month and backed it up again last weekend against Galway to be the high kings of Connacht against all expectations this summer.

For Mayo it is the long road once again and that starts 265km away from home base in MacHale Park tomorrow evening against Down in round two of the All Ireland qualifiers. Get over that and it is back in the hat again for the next round, where there will be plenty of other big sharks they will be looking to avoid - before they get a crack at one of the beaten provincial finalists and then hopefully on to the Super 8s and that is a whole other challenge to overcome.

Mayo's hopes for a long summer were dealt a blow last weekend with Matthew Ruane picking up a shoulder injury that will rule him out for anything up to three months. The Breaffy midfielder looked to be one of the finds of the league, putting together an impressive partnership with his clubmate Aidan O'Shea in the middle of the park - bringing industry, athleticism, and serious workrate to the role - allowing his foil to do his stuff.

James Horan will have a number of options in replacing Ruane, Diarmuid O'Connor stands out to most as the most natural replacement in the area - but others like Donal Vaughan have a similar type of skillset to complement O'Shea in the middle of the park if he chooses to stick with the same dynamic - or Horan could mix up the midfield pairing and go for a different approach.

Down come into this game on the back of exiting the Ulster championship narrowly - they were beaten by Armagh after extra-time in the quarter-finals stage of the competition. They re-entered the championship in round one of the qualifiers where they were able to clear the tricky hurdle in the shape of Tipperary - with Donal O'Hare getting the vital goal in that game. The same man also netted against Armagh in the Ulster championship.

They will also be welcoming back to the fray midfielder Caolan Mooney after he missed the Tipp game due to suspension. The man on the line for the Mourne County also has plenty of knowledge of Mayo. This is Paddy Tally's first year in charge of Down, last year he was part of Kevin Walsh's Galway backroom team which beat Mayo in both the league and championship.

Down were the early pace setters in a competitive division three in the league and only for a surprise defeat to Louth in a rearranged fixture late on they would have won promotion to division two. While they may not be operating at the highest levels of league football - the Mourne men have a strong footballing tradition and will be whetting their lips at the chances of sending Mayo packing from the championship.


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