Yeats county men first up for Mayo

GAA: Connacht Senior Football Championship

All roads lead north for Mayo on Saturday for their Connacht Senior Football Championship opener against Sligo in Markievicz Park which throws in at 4.30pm.

Mayo manager James Horan will be looking for his side to continue on the developments they have shown in the league to date while Sligo have their homework well done on Mayo - especially with their management team having intimate knowledge of Mayo from past involvement with the side.

Horan said: "(They ) Obviously had a difficult (league ) campaign. Tony McEntee and Joe Keane and a lot of those guys have a lot of Mayo knowledge of the players and they will be utilising all that to try and get the best performance they can.

"Traditionally, going up to Markievicz in a one-off game with a team with nothing (to lose ), it can all add up and stack up into a fired up performance.

"They have a sprinkling of good players there and it boils back to us building on what we did in the league and trying to get better. I feel we are doing that and we are in a strong place, so looking forward to getting up there for 4.30pm and us giving the best performance we can."

He's not expecting Sligo to set up defensively, but different games can call for different tactics he added: "Throughout the league they didn’t (set up defensively ), Tony McEntee’s philosophy is an attacking based style off football, but sometimes in one-off games, things can change, so I don’t know what Tony will do. But I know what we will try and do and how we will be trying to play and use possession based on whatever comes out."

Mayo will be dealing with the loss of Cillian O'Connor through injury but it is something they have to get on with and will – the Mayo manager said: "Cillian is out for the foreseeable future so that will probably be the season, it is a blow for Cillian on a personal level obviously. It is what it is, but we are lucky in one way that we have a lot of players playing very well in training and as you know, we have a lot of young players coming through so one of those will have to step up. We are looking forward to getting going and seeing how it goes."

As for who will take over the free-taking responsibility from the Ballintubber sharp-shooter, that hadn't been decided when Horan spoke to the Press, but there are a number of suitable candidates, he did say. "The team hasn’t been picked yet, if you look through the players we have there, we have Paul Towey who came on in Clare and for the u20s for a number of years, as a very good free taker, Ryan O’Donoghue, very good free taker; Conor Loftus last year took frees for us as well, Jason Doherty was a free taker as well and Darren Coen. A lot of guys are very high level free takers so we’ll see how it goes and play out for team selection and take it from there."

With Cillian out for the season, Horan is much more hopeful that Diarumid O'Connor who also limped out, could play a role in the championship along with some others coming back from long-term injuries. "Obviously Diarmuid came off in the Clare game and is pushing well, he is very close.

"Jason Doherty is training very well with us and is pushing very hard. Brendan Harrison – again pushing very hard, has a couple of games with his club under his belt. They are some of the longer term injuries we have, we have a pretty good group to pick from."

As for what Mayo will take from their year in division two - there is plenty there to grow on, Horan said: "It was division two, but when you looked at the league fixtures before the league started, there were some potentially tricky games there with Meath coming down, having pushed well in division one last year.

"Down as well, you are not quite sure what you’ll get with those guys, a lot of very good footballers; and Westmeath are always sticky, some of the those games were tricky.

"We’re very happy with how we played, how we went about them, our preparation and our starts in a lot of those games were very good, we certainly learned an awful lot, tried a whole group of players, got a huge amount from it and hopefully we can mash all those learnings into an improved performance at the weekend."


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