Mayo look to overthrow the Royals on their own patch

GAA: National Football League

Driving on: Lee Keegan drives past Eoin Murchan last Saturday night in MacHale Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Driving on: Lee Keegan drives past Eoin Murchan last Saturday night in MacHale Park. Photo: Sportsfile

The last time that Mayo travelled to Navan to take on Meath in the National Football League - the Royals came away with a 1-16 to 0-12 win back in late March 2003.

On that day, Alan Dillon kicked a point for Mayo and while the action takes place in Pairc Tailteann this Sunday, Dillon will be keeping his eye on another scoreboard as he looks to win a seat in Dáil Eireann, with the election count taking place on Sunday in Castlebar.

While it has been a long time since these counties have met in the league - they have a far more recent history in the championship with the teams meeting in round two of the Super 8s in Croke Park last July, where Mayo ran out 2-17 to 0-14 winners thanks to a late kick for home.

The Royals find themselves rooted to the bottom of the division one table, having lost their two opening games to Tyrone and Donegal. It has been a long time since the Leinster men have tasted the rarefied air of the top flight, where the big boys come to play every week and even with teams being chopped and changed from week to week, there is no room for error.

This game is one that Mayo will have marked down as a must-win from as soon as the fixtures were announced - they of course find themselves just one point ahead of Meath in the standings and only for the combination of a show of defiance from James Durcan, combined with the deflection off Michael Murphy's hands in Ballybofey a fortnight ago, they could easily have found themselves on the bottom of the table with Meath.

Last weekend the Dublin jamboree rolled into Castlebar and the visitors packed up their tents and went home with two points as they once again put away the Mayo challenge - it's now 16 games since they have got one over the metropolitans.

The game-changing moment came when Jordan Flynn was dismissed with a straight red card just before the quarter-of-an-hour mark, Mayo were two points up at that stage and led until right before the interval, but expending the energy to keep up with the Dubs while a man down, took its toll in for the rest of the game with Dublin managing to put 1-10 up on the scoreboard compared to the 0-5 Mayo managed after Flynn's dismissal.

Meath for their part were seen off 3-8 to 0-7 by Donegal last weekend in Navan - the Royals trailed 2-2 to 0-4 at the break, having led 0-4 to 0-1, with just over ten minutes to go until the break and in the second half Donegal outscored them 1-6 to 0-3. Mayo will be hoping to pile more hurt on Andy McEntee's men on Sunday when the sides clash in Navan.

Both sides showed very different hands last weekend than the teams that met in the championship last Summer, with only five of the players who started that Super 8 game against Meath last year, which was a do-or-die clash for Mayo; those handed starting rolls against Dublin last Saturday were - Stephen Coen, Brendan Harrision, Colm Boyle, Aidan O'Shea and Fergal Boland - while the experienced duo Kevin McLoughlin and Lee Keegan, who also started that Super 8 game, also got some game time off the bench last weekend.

It was similar for Meath with Conor McGill, Donal Keogan, Bryan Menton and Cillian O'Sullivan starting both the Super 8 clash last Summer and Meath's loss to Donegal last weekend, while James Conlon and Ethan Devine who were in the first 15 for the game last Summer, also came off the bench last Sunday.

 

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