Dubs back in town for second date

Down but not out: Keith Higgins takes a knee after last weekend’s defeat to Cork. The Ballyhaunis defender has been one of Mayo’s top performers in the league this year and another big performance from him will be needed on Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile.

Down but not out: Keith Higgins takes a knee after last weekend’s defeat to Cork. The Ballyhaunis defender has been one of Mayo’s top performers in the league this year and another big performance from him will be needed on Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile.

The fog may have brought an early end to the February dalliance between Dublin and Mayo, but on Saturday evening both sides will give it a second go in McHale Park. With an estimated 10,000 people showing up for that game back in February, and a lot of those not getting a ticket on the way in to that game, there will be free entry on Saturday night. So there is no excuse for the Mayo football population not to come out in their thousands and support the senior team. The county board will be distributing tickets outside the ground and people can make a voluntary donation of €5 which will be used to fund four different local charities, Western Care, Mayo-Roscommon Hospice, Western Alzheimers, and the Order of Malta.

Mayo are facing into a tough challenge of ending a three game losing streak when the All Ireland champions visit McHale Park on Saturday evening. The visitors sit in fourth place in the table with three wins from their five games, their two defeats coming to Kerry in Croke Park and more surprisingly Down in Newry a fortnight ago. While Mayo are only two points behind Dublin in the table, they are in the middle of a relegation dogfight, level on points with Donegal and Laois at the moment, and just out of the bottom two on scoring difference. The three way tie sees Mayo in sixth spot with -1 points on the scoring difference, Donegal in seventh place on -13 points and Laois on -17. So it would take a heavy defeat on Saturday for Mayo to slip into the bottom two ahead of the final round of games next weekend when Mayo will make the trip to Kerry. Laois will host Down in their last game, while Donegal will see Armagh visit Ballybofey.

However a win for Mayo on Saturday night and all the relegation talk could be put to the side, the last game against a Kerry side already in the final four would see Mayo going to the Kingdom with an outside shot of making the final four and a semi-final spot.

While last Sunday’s performance against Cork was far above the level that was reached the previous week against Donegal in Ballyshannon, the fact that Mayo for the second week in a row were not able to close out a game they were leading at half time, and with a man advantage will worry supporters and all involved in with the team alike. James Horan knew as much after the game, saying: “We should have won it, if that equates to what you’re saying. We had a couple of chances. We gave away a couple of hand-passes near the end and that’s what killed us – simple skills execution at key teams. When we needed to hold on to the ball we panicked a little bit. That costs you, which it probably should at this level. We’ll just have to get at it next week”

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