Mayo work it out to set up Croker date

GAA: All Ireland Senior Football Championship

It was never going to be perfect, because it never is - and after six weeks without a competitive game it was going to be a matter of getting the job done and blowing out the engine ahead of bigger challenges.

That's exactly what Mayo did last Saturday against Monaghan. Lots of good, mixed in with plenty of not so good at times - but job done and on to the next round of the championship.

Croke Park is the next stop for Mayo on Saturday evening to face Kildare, the fixing of the game for GAA headquarters might not be ideal for supporters on a Saturday evening, with the cost of living going higher and higher - but it is a venue that has brought out the best in Mayo in recent times and its wide open spaces is something that will suit their style of play.

After the win last Saturday, James Horan admitted that he was unsure of where the side were after such a long break from action after their loss to Galway back in April. "A good win to beat Monaghan in a pressure game we had to win is always good - we weren’t sure where we were because it has been a while since we played and look, it was great to come out and get the win", he said.

Mayo did enough to edge out the Farney men, but Horan also acknowledged that there was plenty to work on this week ahead of their Croke Park showdown with Kildare, saying: "Loads of mistakes, but there was loads of honesty and effort and I think that got us through in the end."

After Cillian O'Connor had nudged Mayo further in front with a score from play not long after the resumption following the half-time break, Mayo had plenty of the ball but failed to capitalise on it and kill off the game and left the door open for their opponents, which Horan will want to see rectified come tomorrow evening if the same thing occurs.

"We had a 15-minute period at the start of the second half where we had enough possession to pull away in that game, but made a couple of mistakes and left Monaghan hanging in there and there was a couple of decisions that could have gone either way, but over all we deserved it."

One of those decisions was the late penalty shout for Monaghan, then Lee Keegan tangled with Conor Leonard after Aidan O'Shea had overcooked a handpass back to Keegan. Whatever about the penalty shout, it was the way that Mayo had not cleared their lines properly before that, that Horan focused in on after the game, saying: “There was (that ) at the end, they had a shout for a penalty. I thought we scrambled and recovered well, but we were asking for trouble the way we played in the last five or six minutes there on our kick-outs, we didn’t move the ball out of there quick enough and we were inviting them on to us, I thought we did enough and deserved the win."

Mayo welcomed back a few faces after injury, but one man who didn't make it back to get a spot on the 26 was Belmullet sharp shooter Ryan O'Donoghue and Horan was still uncertain after the game if he would be ready for this weekend. "It is day by day with the groin so it is hard to know, an extra week will help him certainly a lot."

On the overall injury front, the longer that Mayo are alive in the championship, the longer they will have to get a full deck of players ready to play with, the Ballintubber man added.

"The longer we are in it the more we will get back hopefully, we had a lot back today, a lot of guys; an extra week will do a lot of good; we had Jordan Flynn in the 26 today and he’ll be back into contention, so look, it is going the right way, today was important to get the win and will give people a chance during the week.

"When you have so many injuries, the guys in and out and the guys in modified training and all that stuff, so you don’t know, but to get past Monaghan out here is very good.

"Oisin (Mullin ), Rob (Hennelly ), Eoghan (McLaughlin ) all those guys haven’t played much football recently so to get a game under these conditions against a good grizzled outfit is good."

Something different that Mayo tried was placing Jack Carney in the full forward position and the Kilmeena man acquitted himself reasonably well in an unfamiliar position and for a guy only making his first championship start for the county, Horan believes there is plenty more to come from him, saying: "Jack is still learning the game, I think Jack has brilliant skills - he is very good in the air and is an exciting player and can play in a number of positions, it is great. His hands are really good and he sees the game early, I think he’s a good player."

Another positive for Mayo was that they made hay when they had a man advantage after Conor McManus was shown a black card early on last Saturday - for the time that McManus was off the field Mayo hit 1-3 without reply, laying the foundations for their win on the scoreboard. It was a period of play that pleased Horan - "I thought Cillian’s frees and the penalty gave us solidity, they started off well and got a couple of points and were standing off a bit and looked a bit rusty, I thought that definitely brought us into the game and we dominated possession throughout and made a few mistakes for sure, but there was lots of stuff I’d be happy with."

Next up is a wounded Kildare after their drubbing in the Leinster Final by Dublin a few weeks ago. The Lillywhites are also the only side to knock Mayo out of the championship that didn't go on to lift the Sam Maguire since 2012 - when they turned Mayo over in Newbridge in 2018.


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