It will only be the second week March next week, but for either Mayo manager Niall Heffernan or his opposite number from Roscommon, Nigel Dineen, by the time they go to bed next Wednesday night one of their inter-county seasons will be over already. The traditional once chance brutality of championship football still remains at the u21 grade and many months of work and planning for both sides will come down to what happens on the field in MacHale Park next Wednesday.
Roscommon will come to Castlebar next week as the favourites having claimed the Hastings Cup earlier this year, seeing off Meath, Cavan, Clare, and Kildare on the way, while Mayo lost out in the shield final of the competition to Tipperary. They had previously beaten Longford and Offaly in the group stages of the competition, with a defeat to Cavan sandwiched between those victories. Heffernan will be looking to the likes of Ballina Stephenites’ Evan Regan and Mayo Gaels’ Adam Gallagher, last year’s All Ireland minor-winning duo of Stephen Coen and Diarmuid O’Connor, all who have senior football experience under their belts to spearhead their challenge next Wednesday night.
Mayo have not had the best run in this competition in recent years, last year losing out to eventual All Ireland champions Galway in Tuam, and to next week’s opponents in Kiltoom at the semi-final stage the year before. It is five years this year since Mayo last claimed the Connacht title, their 23rd in all in 2009, which brought to an end a run of four titles on the trot since 2006.