“A week is a long time in .....” you’ve heard and read it all before. But truly the last seven days have seen quite a swing in the fortunes of Mayo football. This time last week James Horan’s side were staring down the barrel of a gun and relegation to division two was staring back at them in the face. Move forward seven days and it’s a place in the semi-finals that Mayo are playing for on Sunday in Tralee rather than just mere survival.
Last Saturday’s re-fixed game against Dublin couldn’t have really gone much better for Mayo, a 12 point win over the All Ireland champions, a more than healthy crowd to witness it and a little bit of history being made, and it all added up to a great evening of events for all in McHale Park. The record breaking of course came from the boot of Conor Mortimer who kicked eight of Mayo’s 20 points, to give him a total of 14-380 for Mayo in 95 appearances for the county. That haul moved him in front of the legendary ‘Jinking’ Joe Corcoran who scored 20-358 in the green and red over a career that spanned from 1958 to 1974.
Staying up and hanging around
At the important end of things, Mayo are more or less secure in division one unless a freak confluence of results occurs where Mayo lose heavily and see Dublin, Donegal and Laois all rack up very large wins to swing the points difference against Mayo. A win will put Mayo into the semi-finals, while if they lose they will be relying on results from elsewhere to see if they make the grade.
Mayo manager James Horan was happy that his side had performed for the full 70 minutes against Dublin, something that didn’t happen the week before against Cork when they let a lead slip late on. “In various games particularly in Laois and up in Armagh we had spells and very good periods. But we didn't keep it together for 70 minutes, today we did and we drove on. We definitely learned from last week a little bit, as we've learned from every week that we've played,” he said.
While the All Ireland champions were reduced to 13 men before the end of the contest, they weren’t completely on top of their game and Horan knew that his side had caught the Dubs on the hop. “It was a good display, we played well today. We did a lot of good stuff and we might have caught the Dubs a bit cold today so we took advantage of it and played our game and played well. So we're delighted with the performance.” The Ballintubber club man said didn’t know why Dublin were off their game, but all he was concerned with was his own side’s performance. “It could have been the travel down whatever I don't know. But we had the intensity to win the game. We've seen Dublin do it in the past, they might not have played as well today as they could, but that's not for me to worry about, we did our stuff.”
The team that was announced last for Saturday’s game surprised many, with the both Shane McHale and Danny Geraghty surprise selections for the side. But both men did very well in their roles with McHale looking very comfortable in defence and Geraghty pairing up well with Aidan O’Shea in the middle of the park. What is picked by Horan to take on the Kingdom won’t be known until after training tonight (Friday, April 6 ) at the earliest, but a number of players put down a marker for long term inclusion last Sunday.
Semi-final was always a target
Andy Moran is one of the names that will be first pencilled down on any Mayo side to take to the field this year and he put a lot of last weekend’s performance down to the fact that the whole squad had been able to train together properly for the first time over the last few weeks. “For the past two weeks it was the first time we had everyone at training. We've 12 guys in Dublin and six guys on the u21s and we needed to time it right to get them all back together and for the last two to eight sessions we've had everyone at training which made a big difference. The lads are coming down from Dublin (for training Tuesday nights ) which is super. We couldn't have them coming down from January 1, so James had to time it right and we got them down the last two weeks and I think our performance over the last two weeks has shown what the difference it makes.”
Making it into a semi-final which looked to be a long shot only a fortnight ago would be a great achievement according to Moran, but it was the aim at the start of the league. “It'd be great, that was our aim at the start of the league, we go down to Kerry next, it's a massive game, you don't get anything easy down in Kerry. We were happy with tonight first, and if we sneak into a semi-final, and if we get a day out in Croke Park we'll work it from there and you never know what could happen.”
Mayo’s game against Kerry will throw at 2.30pm in Tralee on Sunday and if things go to plan, there will be at least one more day out in the league to get some practice in before the long layoff to the start of the championship at the end of June.