Rumour has it that there will be a raft of changes for our match v Longford tomorrow in Pearse Park. I expect that management have examined every available option for this encounter. I would say it has been a tough couple of weeks for everyone involved since the championship defeat. Management will be fully aware of Mayo’s poor ‘back door ’record in years past. Both Westmeath and Fermanagh have shortened our summer on two occasions. In fact we have only managed to secure back to back victories when going through the back door on a single occasion, in 2002, when we saw off three teams in a row, beating Roscommon, Limerick, and Tipperary on that occasion.
This visit to Longford is, therefore, a very tricky assignment and it is crucial that the team selected is the right one. I expect at least six changes to the starting line up and possibly even more from the team selected v Sligo. The reality is that the team selected on that occasion just was not good enough. There were mitigating circumstances of course with a number of pre match injuries that limited the options available, but the injury situation appears to be resolved in most instances at this stage. Trevor Howley, Chris Barrett, Pat Harte, Aidan O’Shea, Alan Dillon, Barry Moran, and possibly Mark Ronaldson are all in with a shout of starting this game. There is also a possibility that Mayo will line out with a new midfield pairing in Pat Harte and Seamus O’Shea. This was a sector in which we really struggled to gain primary possession against Sligo. In fact I cannot ever recall a Mayo senior team having to take off both midfielders in a championship match before. I will travel to Pearse Park on Saturday and my wish is that I see a performance that does justice to the jersey. In other words, I would hate to see a Mayo player floating about the park, managing to arrive late at the scene of the action every time a hard ball has to be won. Give us 15 players who are fit and ready to fight and scrap for every ball tomorrow evening, and if Mayo are the hardest working team in Pearse Park then winning will take care of itself!
I was in the bog last Saturday evening when I got a call to say that Down and Tyrone were involved in a cracking match. That was enough for me, and with not a midge in sight I abandoned the job and rushed to Crossmolina for the second half. I should have stayed in the bog. What I witnessed was dreadful. It was the quintessential game of two halves. And of course I missed the best half. I later discovered that Down had really stretched Tyrone and were all over them in the first quarter. But in typical Tyrone fashion, the old wise heads reeled in the youngsters and hit them with six unanswered sucker punches of points just before half time. With Tyrone leading by two points at half time I was anticipating that this new look young Down side would put it up to the ageing Tyrone team and take this match right down to the wire.
Elsewhere Meath have made a serious statement about their intent this year. They have been hugely impressive in their Leinster championship campaign to date. Their match against Dublin is an obvious highlight of the weekend. I think this match will be hugely entertaining.
I am off to Salthill on Sunday to see Sligo against Galway. Sligo don’t fear Galway these days and for that very reason I would not be surprised if there was a shock on the cards here. Sligo are by no means world beaters themselves, but they will see this as a fantastic opportunity to get into a Connacht final with a Division four team, Roscommon, between them and a second Connacht title in four years. Now that would be a fairytale!