Mayo secured their return to Division One of the National Football League last Sunday with a four-point win over Clare in Ennis.
However, that victory was tempered by the news this week that Cillian O'Connor will be out for a period of time after having to limp out of the game just before the break.
Mayo GAA issued a statement on Wednesday confirming the news, stating: "Following last Sunday's NFL game versus Clare GAA, all injured players received further assessment with the Mayo medical team. Cillian O’Connor sustained an Achilles Tendon injury that will require a procedure this week. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him on the playing field again as soon as possible."
The loss of the Ballintubber man will be keenly felt by Mayo as they head into their Connacht Championship opener against Sligo on Saturday week in the Yeats County and later on in the championship should they progress, with this year's championship set to be done and dusted by the end of August, putting the leading scorer of all time in the championship as a major doubt to play any part at all in Mayo's plans - should they progress through the rounds of action.
Last Sunday was O'Connor's 100th game for Mayo in his 11th season with the senior side; in those games he has scored 41-487, with 30-337 of those coming in championship games. Since his arrival on the scene, O'Connor has started 56 championship games and been a substitute who saw game time in four more games.
He has won six Connacht Senior Football titles with Mayo and one National League title; he has also picked up two All Stars, most recently last season when he kicked 5-40 in Mayo's five championship games on their run to the All Ireland final. He was also named as GAA Young Player of the Year twice in 2011 and 2012 - a feat repeated by his younger brother, Diarmuid, who also limped out of Mayo's game with Clare early last Sunday, giving James Horan another headache before the start of championship action on Saturday week.
Horan looking to take the positives
Speaking after their win over Clare, James Horan was taking the positives from the game, but admitted that there was a lot for Mayo to work on going forward - after letting Clare back into a game they looked to have wrapped up well before full-time.
Horan said: "We wanted to get back to Division One and started really well against a team that were very focused on this game. We started really well, built up a good lead in the first half and played some excellent play; to be honest, I'm very happy with it, our movement, how we pressed what we were trying to do, our defensive cover was all very solid.
"We got ragged in the third quarter, and need to sort out a few things there. I thought towards the end, some of our experienced guys like Lee (Keegan ) and Aidan (O'Shea ), got on a lot of ball and calmed it down towards the end to run out winners. Lots of stuff I'd be very happy with, but lots of stuff we have to stop doing for sure."
Getting promotion back to Division One will be a big boost for younger players coming through when they get to regularly test themselves against the best next year, he added: "It is good, you saw Paul Towey and some of the young lads we are bringing through, that they will be facing top level opposition and that's what you face in division one - it is good from that point of view; but we got a right test from a very good team and it shows areas that flashed up there that we need to improve on, so I'm happy from that regard."
A small fall-off in performance can cost at this level and Mayo nearly found that out, Horan admitted, saying: "We found out where our fitness is and everything else, it is warm out there, you saw that in the last quarter, a lot of people being stepped, but it is a brilliant surface to play on, that's for sure.
"The two high balls in (for the Clare goals ) - we should have dealt with them better; we should have managed it better; one or two held on to the ball a bit longer than in the first half and got turned over, got a few shots blocked down. If you drop by even a fraction, it can all build up; we were 50 per cent on their kick-outs in the first half, but we were zero in the second half - so there's lots in that."