Mayo head into break with plenty think about

Eyes on the prize: Keith Higgins and Tom Cunniffe go in with Tyrone’s Stephen O’Neill and Conor McAlliskey for the ball last Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

Eyes on the prize: Keith Higgins and Tom Cunniffe go in with Tyrone’s Stephen O’Neill and Conor McAlliskey for the ball last Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

It will be another 15 days before Mayo get back out on the field in competitive action when they take on Dublin in Croke Park on Saturday, March 2. In the coming 15 days and in the five days since they lost at the death a game they really had no right to hold the upper hand in at all, Mayo will have had plenty of time to ponder last Sunday’s events against Tyrone.

Was the performance just a blip or something more symptomatic that will have to be worked out on the training field are all questions that James Horan and his management team will have been working on this week. Of course we have been here before, many times over, with Mayo sides, where a poor performance can be over scrutinised, a lucky win can be over-celebrated by those outside the camp. As recently as last year’s league game in Ballyshannon against Donegal, we saw a number of serious questions raised about the team and their abilities. It was a bad performance in the second half that day, James Horan many times over the rest of last season said too much was taken, it was just one very bad half of football.

The lack of penetration from those trying to get Mayo’s full forward line into the game last Sunday was a serious concern for many, and rightly so. But there are also a number of caveats to be considered. None of Mayo’s starting half-forward line that day would have been considered as first choice in those positions as recently as last September. Lee Keegan and Richie Feeney are finding their feet in those positions at this level, while Cathal Freeman is still getting used to playing at this level. Alan Dillon who has been Mayo’s key link man for so many years is only coming back from injury, and only got on the field with 16 minutes left on the clock last Sunday. He had not even been named on the list of subs in the match day programme and was a late addition before throw in. Mayo are also waiting for the return from injury of the young footballer of the year for the past two years, Cillian O’Connor, and Andy Moran is to come back. There were positives for Mayo, both Michael Conroy and Jason Doherty were making runs looking for the ball and getting a bit of space in front of their men. If they were not it could be a much bigger concern.

Aidan O’Shea was the dominant midfielder on the day and Mayo will need him to be for the rest of season.

Another factor that will have to be considered into assessing Mayo’s performance so far is that they played their first game this year on January 13 against Leitrim, they have played four games on the five weekends in between then and last weekend along with one midweek game. They also missed the first week of January training because of their team holiday to Miami, and a number of players were involved in O’Byrne Cup among other provincial tournaments, along with Sigerson and other third level competition commitments a number of players are involved in currently. With so much pulling from a number of players in the early few weeks of the year it can be difficult to get things right. With two weekends between the Tyrone game and the Dublin game, there is plenty of time for Mayo to address the issues that arose last weekend.

Ladies host Donegal in the league

The Mayo ladies will be hosting Donegal on Sunday in the third round of division one in the Tesco Homegrown National Football League. Mayo were scheduled to have played Monaghan last Sunday in round two of the competition, but the game was cancelled on Sunday morning because of a unplayable pitch in the Ulster county. Mayo had opened up their account in this year’s league with a six point win over Tyrone at the Connacht Centre of Excellence all weather pitch the previous week. Their opponents this weekend, Donegal, have one win and one defeat to their name so far. They opened the league with a seven point defeat at home to Laois, but last weekend followed that up with a 3-10 to 2-7 win away to Dublin. Geraldine McLaughlin was the hat-trick hero for Donegal last week, scoring all her three goals inside the first half. This Sunday’s game is scheduled to throw in at 2pm in Fr Gibbons Park, Claremorris, with John Niland the man in the middle.

Back to action for lots of clubs this weekend

The winter will be officially over for most club players across the divisions this weekend, with action in the Kelly Cup, O’Meara Cup, Centenary Cup, and the North Mayo Winter League all throwing in at noon on Sunday. Out in the west there is action in both groups in the Kelly Cup with three games in each group. The meeting of Tourmakeady and Parke in Parke is an early season meeting that should be an entertaining battle. With the other four senior sides in the division, Breaffy, Castlebar, Ballintubber, and Westport, all looking like winners in their respective games.

In the east there are four games across the two groups in the Centenary Cup. There is no rest for Charlestown who are three weeks out from their heartbreaking All Ireland semi-final defeat and they are now back in the throes of pre-season competition with a trip to Moy Davitts. The meeting of Kiltimagh and Swinford is another sure to have a little early season spark. Down south in the O’Mara Cup only two games are down for action on Sunday, with all four sides looking to lay down early season markers, Claremorris will travel to face Shrule Glencorrib, and Ballinrobe will host Garrymore.

Up north there are four games spread all over the division with Ballina heading to Ballycastle, Moygownagh hosting neighbour Ardagh, Knockmore making the trip south to Lahardane, and Ardnaree hosting Crossmolina.

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