Mayo taking it one game at a time

GAA: Connacht Senior Football Championship

On the March: James Horan will be looking for his side to pick up their first Connacht Senior Football Championship title on Sunday in Salthill. Photo: Sportsfile

On the March: James Horan will be looking for his side to pick up their first Connacht Senior Football Championship title on Sunday in Salthill. Photo: Sportsfile

It's been five years since Mayo have contested a Connacht Senior Football Championship final. While not reaching the provincial decider hasn't really hindered their progress in the championship - reaching two All Ireland finals and another semi-final in the four years since then - this year is different.

With no room for error, any slip off the tight rope will see their championship run come to an end and it has been all about taking it one game at time for the team since action resumed in mid-October.

James Horan wasn't looking too far ahead when asked his thoughts about Galway following Mayo's win over Roscommon last Sunday in Hyde Park: “We haven’t thought to much about it, we just got through today and everything was focused on today as it has been for the last four games now in a row we have played, we’ll do the same and see what we need to do for the following weekend," he said afterwards.

He did concede that Galway will be coming in at a slight disadvantage, having seen their Connacht semi-final against Sligo being conceded by the Yeats county men due to a Covid-19 outbreak in their camp and Mayo already having two championship games under their belts to the Tribesmen's none. "You learn every time you play, even the logistics of things and everything else, of what works for ye as a group and then the games, you learn a lot from them. We’re happy where we are and what is going on, we will have lots of guys competing for the squad."

As for his team selection for Sunday, it will all depend on how things have gone in training this week. Horan has shown he has no problem in shaking up the match day 26 in any of the four league and championship games Mayo have played since the restart. Speaking after the Roscommon game, he said: "We have a couple of niggles, we have been four weeks on the road around the place playing hard games with travel and everything else. You are going to have knocks and bangs, but we have a very healthy squad and so we have a lot of boys itching for Tuesday night.

“We’re going on form, showing energy and a certain way we want to play and everyone is buying into that and it all depends who is going well. Tuesday night can dictate who is selected on Thursday in the 26 and that makes your training sessions very competitive, and that is the way it is."

While he will shake up the squad - there are a number of experienced players that he will not be able to do without during the championship and he has been impressed with how they have shown up so far this season: "They are playing better than they have in the last number of years, Cillian (O'Connor ) in the last two games has been very strong, Aidan (O'Shea ) is playing very well - is a very clever player and Paddy (Durcan ) today he was on Enda Smith, who is fantastic player and he was very strong for us."

There was plenty of trepidation from supporters going into last weekend's game in the Hyde, with Roscommon seen as a coming side who were on a rich run of form since the resumption of games. But that kind of talk didn't seep into the Mayo camp at all, the Ballintubber clubman said: "Not at all, to be honest, I haven’t a clue what is going on, what people are thinking or saying, this year more than any; because there is so much news, with elections, covid and if you start taking in news, your focus won’t be what it needs to be.

"We are fairly clear, we are a very happy bunch to be honest, trying to learn and develop. We had another new starter today so that’s eight or nine we have introduced in two games to championship football. We are learning as a team, we are trying to figure stuff out and we will do the same and try to improve again."

The championship is being played out to the background of empty stadiums and while it is not ideal, it does allow the management to communicate more effectively from the sideline to the players, which is a bonus, according to the Mayo manager: "I think for communication, it makes it a lot easier, a lot simpler and you can talk to the players from the sideline, which you can’t in any other game. From our side it helps, but once the game starts, I don’t think it impacts the players too much whether there is a crowd there."

The team started the game extremely brightly last weekend and they will be looking to do something similar if Mayo is to claim the Nestor Cup in Salthill for the first time since 2009 - but even though they got out of the blocks well - Horan said he knows there is plenty for his side still to improve on.

“I thought we started well and dominated a lot of key parts of the game. I our shooting boots were on a bit better, particularly in the second quarter, we could have been ahead a little bit more, but look, overall what you are looking for in championship football - I thought a lot of our energy and work rate was very strong, so I’m very happy with that.

“Every win is important and we got to introduce a lot of new guys to championship last week and every game tells you a few things and there were a few things last week we were very poor on and we improved on those a bit today; lots of stuff today we need to do a bit on this week and you always learn something, every game you play."


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