Mayo look to pick the orchard in the Hyde

GAA: National Football League

No holding back: Diarmuid O'Connor battles for the ball against Sean MacMahon in Croke Park last Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile.

No holding back: Diarmuid O'Connor battles for the ball against Sean MacMahon in Croke Park last Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile.

After last weekends downing of Dublin in Croke Park, there is little respite for Mayo as they take on one of the form teams so far in this years National Football League on Sunday.

Kieran McGeeney's, Armagh come to Hyde Park for this clash with the same amount of league points on the board as James Horan's Mayo, five from three games.

They have also beaten Dublin in Croke Park, doing that in round one, they then backed that up with a win over All Ireland champions Tyrone in round two. Last weekend they were held to a draw by Monaghan in the Atlantic Grounds, in what was a typically tight all Ulster affair.

James Horan continues with his rotation policy and has made four changes to the Mayo team for the game against Armagh this weekend at Dr. Hyde Park in Roscommon. Horan is also giving a league debut to Ballina Stephenites rising star Frank Irwin at full forward. Irwin is the son of former Mayo Goalkeeper Gabriel Irwin, who won three Connacht titles and an All-Star award with Mayo in 1989.

Irwin’s team mate Sam Callinan also gets his first start in the National Football League after coming off the bench against Donegal in the opening round. The changes from the Dublin game sees Callinan replace Donncha McHugh in the half back line, Westport’s Fionn McDonagh comes in for Bryan Walsh at left half forward, Crossmolina’s Conor Loftus replaces Jack Carney at right half forward with debutant Irwin coming in at full forward in place of Paul Towey. McHugh, Carney and Towey are named on a very strong bench that also includes the O’Shea brothers Aiden and Conor, Paddy Durcan, Kevin McLoughlin, Fergal Boland and Brendan Harrison. Breaffy’s Rob Hennelly will make his 70th league and championship appearance for Mayo on Sunday.

Mayo took an upward curve in their trajectory last weekend, they started the game much quicker tempo than their previous two outings and looked to move the ball at pace into the forward line. Right from the get go, Jordan Flynn's ball into Diarmuid O'Connor for Mayo's opening score showed their intention. That continued right throughout the game with Ryan O'Donoghue on a number of occasions when Mayo got a free opting to move it quickly and put the Dublin defence under pressure. It was similar with O'Connor's pass from a free brought forward for Mayo's second goal.

Mayo have always been a potent force when driving from he back with the ball in hand, but it looks like they are trying to move the ball faster with the foot this year too and it paid off rich dividends last weekend. It was a controlled approach to this type of play, not hurried and is something that can be a potent threat for them going forward.

Any win over Dublin is something to savour and while this was Mayo's second on the bounce, it is far from the Dublin team that Mayo went toe to toe with in the past decade - with retirements and others still not back in action yet. But it is a different Mayo team too, the likes of Donnacha McHugh, Paul Towey, Aiden Orme and Jack Carney far from veterans at this level themselves and all equated themselves very well on the evening and will take great learnings from it.

It was also a real boost for Mayo to have both Matthew Ruane and Oisin Mullin back on the field for the first time in the league this season, both of them bring their own qualities to the side and are such key players in the set up for James Horan.

Armagh to pose some serious questions

Armagh looked to have plenty of work done in the off season when they hit the ground running against Dublin in their first league encounter in round one and they backed that up in round two against Tyrone. They didn't really get to their top speed at all last weekend against Monaghan and were lucky to come away with the draw at the end.

But they have shown that they can do serious damage to a defence and this will be another good test for Mayo's emerging backline. Rian O'Neill and Co have the potential to cut any defence to shreds if they can get on the ball. So it is going to be a big test for Mayo's defence.

If Mayo can take down Armagh on Sunday, they'll head into the mid league break week with seven points on the board and a very healthy checklist for the season already completed.

Mayo: Rob Hennelly; Lee Keegan, Rory Brickenden, Michael Plunkett; Oisin Mullin, Stephen Coen, Sam Callinan; Jordan Flynn, Matthew Ruane; Fionn McDonagh, Diarmuid O'Connor, Conor Loftus, Aiden Orme, Frank Irwin, Ryan O'Donoghue.


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