Mayo need to rebel against the Royals

All Ireland Senior Football Championship

Up and over: Cillian O'Connor takes aim at the posts against Kerry last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Up and over: Cillian O'Connor takes aim at the posts against Kerry last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

The events of last weekend will have to have been put in cold storage this week as James Horan plotted and planned for what has become a must-win game for Mayo in the Super 8s.

On paper, Sunday's meeting with Meath looked like the game that Mayo should win for sure out of the three they had in the group, but they will not be taking anything for granted. This will be Mayo's fifth game in five weeks and Meath showed for long periods against Donegal they are not going to be the pushovers that some might have imagined after their drab display in the Leinster final, where they could only muster four scores over the entirety of that contest.

The Royals had been in a slump for a number of years, but now this year has seen real signs of a resurgence building in the Royal county - that could even be traced back to last year's qualifiers exit when they pushed the eventual All Ireland finalists, Tyrone, to the pin of their collars in Navan. They followed that up with a very strong league showing - where they gained promotion back to division one on the back of six wins over very decent opposition, in the shape Tipperary, Armagh, Cork, Kildare, Clare and Fermanagh.

The only team to defeat them in the league was Donegal who edged them in their round robin group meeting in Donegal in round two and then in the division two league final in Croke Park. The only sides that Meath have lost to this year in competitive action are Donegal and Dublin - two of the top three sides in the country by most people's estimations.

Mayo's meetings with Meath haven't been the most fruitful for the home team in recent times; the last time Mayo beat Meath in championship action was the All Ireland final, back in 1951. Since then we have lost All Ireland semi-finals in 1967 and 1988 along with the heartbreaking All Ireland final defeat after a replay in 1996. The last time that Mayo crossed swords with the Royal County came ten years ago in the All Ireland quarter final, where Meath ran out 2-15 to 1-15 winners in Croke Park.

There were a number of survivors from the Mayo team that lined out in 2009 who saw action last weekend against Kerry - albeit most of them in very different positions on the field. The players from that day were Keith Higgins, who lined out at corner-back like he did last Sunday, Donal Vaughan was in the other corner-back slot ten years ago, Andy Moran was then being used as a wing-back while Aidan O'Shea, then in his debut season in inter-county football, was a full forward target man who scored 1-1 for Mayo in that loss.

When it comes to having something to play for going into the final round of games in the Super 8s a number of things need to happen for Mayo. While last Sunday's defeat to Kerry is not fatal, it has put them on the back foot. The scoring difference after round one sees Mayo on -10 with Kerry on +10 and Donegal on +9 so scoring difference is not in their favour at all.

They need to see off Meath at the very least by the slimmest of margins and hope that Kerry can see off Donegal, setting up a winner-takes-all meeting with the Ulster champions in Castlebar on the August Bank Holiday weekend. If Donegal win on Sunday and Mayo don't, it would in all probability see Mayo needing to record a massive victory over Donegal to make it out of the group, which is a very improbable result in most people's estimation.

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