All eyes on Tuam on Sunday

GAA: National Football League

Back again: Mayo's Bryan Walsh hits the crossbar with his penalty from the last meeting of the sides in the FBD League back in January. Photo: Sportstfile

Back again: Mayo's Bryan Walsh hits the crossbar with his penalty from the last meeting of the sides in the FBD League back in January. Photo: Sportstfile

Where were we when we left off?

Oh yah - Mayo have won just one game from five in the National Football League and drawn one other and are looking in serious trouble and could be relegated to division two for the first time in over 20 years.

When this round of games in the top flight is completed this weekend - Mayo’s league fate for next year will become a lot clearer heading into the final round of games next weekend, when Tyrone come to Castlebar.

Currently, Mayo sit on three points in seventh place, ahead of them on five points is Monaghan in sixth and Donegal in fifth, also on five points.

Mayo have a maximum of four more points up for grabs from their last two games that can bring them up to seven points - the same number of points that both the aforementioned Donegal and Monaghan would have if they win just one of their remaining two games - and with Monaghan holding advantage over Mayo on the head-to-head rule following their win in league earlier in the year and Donegal having a massive points difference advantage over Mayo and both sides having drawn in their earlier meeting - it shows how up against it Mayo are to stay in this division.

While Mayo might not be relegated for sure until the following week, winning this game is a must and that’s a tough ask for a side coming in cold after seven months out of competitive action.

James Horan will have an almost full panel to make his selections from for this game - with Jason Doherty’s unfortunate injury in training ruling out the Burrishoole attacker who had worked so hard to get back into contention after a serious injury last year - and Brendan Harrison the only other key player not available for selection.

With so much on the line and the championship starting in just a few weeks - it is expected that Horan will go with experience when he puts his side out on the field on Sunday. But a number of existing panel members and some from outside of it before lockdown put up their hands, with impressive showings during the club championships.

But with both teams coming in relatively cold to such an important game and a few more big ones in the not-too-distant future - it is one that they will want to hit the ground running in.

Galway were out of the gates early with their team selection, with Padraig Joyce naming his side on Tuesday evening, with Joyce making nine changes to the last team he put out against Meath - with Connor Gleeson, Johnny Heaney, Liam Silke, Cein D'Arcy, Eamonn Brannigan and Michael Daly the players set to retain their places from that game.

Joyce also had to plan without the services of any of the county champion Moycullen players who were ruled out, due to players isolating, as close contacts of a Covid-19 case.

Included in the team is Robert Finnerty - son of Anthony Finnerty - the man who hit the back of the net for Mayo in the 1989 All Ireland final and who was involved again in the 1996 final seven years later.

This game will have another quirk to it, being played behind closed doors, thought it is live on TG4 and local radio commentary will be available. But having such a big game with nobody in the ground beyond essential personnel and the media, is going to be a strange occurrence for both sides - when this game event as an FBD clash would attract well over 5,000 people normally.

Galway team: Connor Gleeson; Conor Campbell, Sean Andy Kelly, Johnny Heaney (c ); Liam Silke, Johnny Duane, Cillian McDaid; John Maher, Cein D'Arcy; Eamonn Brannigan, Michael Daly, Jason Leonard; Robert Finnerty, Ian Burke, Paul Conroy.

 

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