Mayo know what they have to do against Tyrone

GAA: National Football League

On the run: Tommy Conroy breaks for goal against Galway last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile.

On the run: Tommy Conroy breaks for goal against Galway last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile.

It is all pretty simple for Mayo - win on Sunday against Tyrone and they will be playing division one football next season; lose and it is division two; draw and then they'll be waiting on results from elsewhere to come in, to see if they can cling on to their division one status.

Mickey Harte's men sit one point in front of Mayo in the standings at present on six points, so it's a must-win game for them too - knowing that if they lose to Mayo, it is more than likely they who will be dropping to division two, unless results go in their favour elsewhere.

Home advantage of a sort will of course be Mayo's but getting wins against the Red Hand men in MacHale Park isn't something that has come easy for Mayo, as in the last three meetings between the two counties in Castlebar, the Ulster men have gone home with the spoils.

The most recent league meeting in MacHale Park came in 2018 where Tyrone put a big beating on Mayo, running out 2-14 to 0-8 winners. They also won the games between the sides in 2015 and 2013 in the league in the same venue.

Both sides are of course facing into championship action the following weekend, but Tyrone are facing, on paper, the much tougher task of having to head to Ballybofey to take on Donegal, a repeat of their league fixture last Sunday, which saw Donegal get a vital win that also helped out Mayo's chances of staying in the top flight no ends - while Mayo will be heading to Carrick-on-Shannon to take on a Leitrim side who didn't field a side last weekend in the league themselves - due to Covid-19 issues.

James Horan had his side well tuned up for last weekend's meeting with Galway - a game in which Mayo ripped into their southern neighbours from the get-go and had the game put to bed before half-time. A similar type of performance would go down quite nicely this time around - as having to hold onto a slender lead or try and get a late winning score against a teak tough battle-hardened side like Tyrone, will not be an easy thing to do.

Horan put a very new-look Mayo side out into action last Sunday, with David McBrien and Mark Moran making their debuts for the county - alongside the likes of Eoghan McLaughlin, Oisin Mullin, Tommy Conroy and Fionn McDonagh. Youth is certainly been given its chance by Horan since the resumption of action after this year's prolonged lay-off.

Will Horan stick with the same side that did so well against Galway? Well, it would be hard for any particular player to lose out on a spot in the side after such a strong showing last weekend - but with a tougher, more experienced and defensive outfit coming to town, he might look to some more of the older stagers to come in and do a job come Sunday.

Also, with the championship coming down the track very quickly and the rapid-fire nature of this year's knock-out championship, getting some game-time into the legs of the more senior players, is something he will surely be looking to do too ahead of the Leitrim game.

He wasn't looking to far ahead of training on Tuesday night following the win over Galway, saying: "I know you won’t believe me, we haven’t looked at tables or scores, we are just trying to bring as much energy to the game and every training session and play together and we did that today and we’ll set down for Tuesday and try and build on."

The uncertainty over how to manage a team during the current covid restrictions mean that Mayo have been taking their preparation one session at a time, he added: "We’ve broken it down - we are not worried about what we can’t control or do anything about, we will send out a message the players have training on Tuesday and hopefully that will go ahead and if we get there we will try to make it as good as we can and plan for the next one, it is that simple where we are at the moment."

As for the oddity of playing in front of an almost empty stadium, he said: "It is a bit weird when you arrive, but when the game gets going, it sort of diminishes a bit (playing in an empty ground ); it was still noisy down where I was, so it is fine."

While there will be no supporters in the ground on Sunday, it doesn't mean that Mayo supporters won't be following the action on tenterhooks - the game will be streamed live on the TG4 YouTube page - with deferred TV coverage on TG4 television after the full-time whistle.


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