Calling on the learned experience

GAA: All Ireland Senior Football Championship

Getting the chance: Ciaran Tracey was one of a number of players who got their chance to make a break through to the Mayo team this year. Photo: Sportsfile.

Getting the chance: Ciaran Tracey was one of a number of players who got their chance to make a break through to the Mayo team this year. Photo: Sportsfile.

Claiming the league title against Kerry back in April was an experience enjoyed by all - but what could be just as important as actually lifting the trophy for the rest of the Summer, is the new and returning players, that were blooded by James Horan during those eight league games - and the FBD before it - in the depths of Winter.

With Lee Keegan, joining Diarmuid O'Connor and one of the breakout stars of that league run Matthew Ruane on the sidelines for a while - the depth of options that were given a chance to show their stuff by Horan in the Spring will be key to Mayo's ongoing progress in the championship.

Mayo used 34 players in the league - with 31 getting to start games over its run. This game time experience will probably be invaluable to Mayo if they get over Galway on Saturday and head straight into the bear pit that will be a Super 8 group with Kerry, Donegal and the winners of Cavan and Meath this weekend.

Injuries happen, most of the time they are just dumb luck as Lee Keegan's last weekend proved. Training ground injuries happen all the time too - it is unfortunate for Mayo that both captain Diarmuid O'Connor and Ruane picked up long lasting ones a few weeks apart on the training ground. They are sure to happen again over the next few weeks with a grueling schedule of four games in five weeks coming up if things go right tomorrow, along with the two back-to-back games that Mayo have just played.

Giving such a large number of players game time in the league could be vital over the next few weeks, with different players being called on and having to draw on those experiences.

From the league - Ruane looked a dead-cert to be in the middle of the park until his injury set him back - but others like Fionn McDonagh and Ciaran Tracey have flourished this year, McDonagh in particular has been a stand out performer and had to overcome his own injury set back.

Darren Coen has added another bow to the Mayo attack - the Hollymount-Carramore man has been one of the stand out club performers for years and has taken his chance this year with relish, while James Carr back from his own injury set back, lit up the league final at stages and held on to his place in starting line-up for Mayo's championship opener two months ago and returned to the bench for last Saturday's game.

We were also informed that Seamus O'Shea and Ger Cafferkey were back in full training with Mayo last week, with the Breaffy man lining out for his club last Sunday in the Michael Walsh League - the experience of both men will surely be needed come the Super 8s if Mayo get there. The injury to Keegan will lead to a reshuffling of things at the back for Mayo - Stephen Coen was the man who replaced him last week is an able and experienced deputy but Michael Plunkett is another live option, the Ballintubber man started against Roscommon and got three starts in the league in the Spring.

You can also throw into the mix that Cillian O'Connor made a welcome return to action for the fist time since last year in a Mayo shirt last week and Donal Vaughan was also back in action for the first time since the league final - having played a part in every league game for Mayo as major positives, along with Ballina's Mikey Murray getting his first taste of championship football last weekend.

While Mayo have suffered some tough injury knocks, they have a strong playing pool built up and some proper game time under their belts - if it is needed over the next few weeks and months.


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