First things first, win on Sunday and Mayo can look forward to a National League semi-final on Sunday week. That is the only thing that James Horan will have had his side concentrating on this week following last Saturday night’s draw against Dublin. It was a game they should have won, having a man advantage for 45 minutes and leading the game by six points with 20 minutes to go, and not seeing out the game is something that you can get away with in the league and learn from rather than have it happen in the championship.
Making the semi-final and the final of the league which is down for Sunday April 27 a week before Mayo jet off to New York for the start of the Connacht championship is an ambition that James Horan has had pencilled in all winter. As after the run-out in New York it will be another five weeks from the New York game to the Connacht semi-final between competitive games for Mayo. If they fail to make the last four on Sunday, there will be nine weekends between competitive games in Ireland. With Derry already into the last four of the competition alongside Cork, the Oak Leaf county could be excused for having their eye off the ball going into Sunday, but Brian McIver’s team have shown a impressive streak scoring 10-94 and conceding 7-78 over their six games so far, while Mayo have hit 12-94 and conceded 13-84. In this year’s league Derry have drawn with Tyrone and beaten Kerry, Westmeath, Dublin, and Kildare, with their single loss coming thanks to a late strike against Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn who themselves are also in the semi-final already.
As for Sunday’s game Horan would expect to have an almost fully fit panel to choose from, with the couple of long term injuries still working their way back to fitness.
The league has been a building process for Horan and his team, starting off with defeats to Kildare and Tyrone on the road, before finding their feet with solid wins over Kerry and Cork at home, along with a topsy-turvy win over Westmeath in Mullingar in the middle. Having their play-off destiny in their own hands going into their final game at home is something that Mayo supporters would have accepted with open arms leaving Healy Park in February. It has been a spring of consolidation and building so far for Mayo, and with a summer of endless possibilities, throwing-in, in the not too distant future they go into Sunday’s game in a pretty good place indeed.