The Kingdom is there to be taken

James Horan will have planned meticulously for this massive seventy minutes. Photo: Sportsfile.

James Horan will have planned meticulously for this massive seventy minutes. Photo: Sportsfile.

Mayo manager James Horan heads into Sunday’s clash against Kerry with a full deck to pick from after his squad came through training since their All Ireland quarter-final victory over Cork three weeks ago.

Sunday’s encounter will by Mayo's first championship meeting with the Kingdom since Horan’s maiden year with the team in 2011, when the Kerrymen beat Mayo at the same stage of the competition on a score of 1-20 to 1-11.

Eleven of the Mayo team who started against Kerry four years ago started Mayo's last eight game against the Rebels, with only the retired Trevor Mortimer not in live contention to start Sunday’s game from the starting 15 in that game.

Horan has shown this year that he is not afraid to mix things up in the lead-up to a big game, with Chris Barrett coming into corner back ahead of throw-in last time out and Donal Vaughan moving to the centre of the park alongside Seamus O’Shea.

While Horan was due to name his starting team not long after this paper went to print, a few changes from the 15 that are named compared to the side that go into battle would not be surprising, with the likes of Alan Freeman and Jason Gibbons pushing hard for inclusion at throw-in time.

Mayo have adapted to each situation as the games have gone on this year, with Horan giving a chance to some of the young turks against Roscommon, before bringing in the experienced heads when it was needed in that game.

The moving of Aidan O’Shea to centre-half forward has been another dynamic that has improved Mayo’s options in attack this year.

Mayo have come through every test thrown at them so far this year, with their gritty comeback win against Roscommon the highlight, when they dug in when not playing that well and got over a side that smelled blood and were dying to take them down.

The Connacht final was a controlled and measured preformance, where they kept Galway at arm’s length and never looked in danger.

While the All Ireland quarter-final win over Cork left a lot of questions to be answered, they held on against the Rebels, who had almost 'the castle door' broken down but the Mayo defence held firm at the death.

That win also saw Mayo not afraid to do what needed to be done, with Lee Keegan willing to commit a foul at the edge of the area rather than let Cork in for a goalscoring chance at the death, leaving Colm O'Neil with a free instead of a green flag being raised.

Kerry of course come into the game on the back of an impressive destruction of Cork in the Munster final and a good win over Galway in the last eight. Eamon Fitzmaurice has been nurturing this team through a transition period since taking the job two years ago. How far they have progressed this year remains to be seen and Mayo are the acid test.

Cork in the Munster final were a shadow of the team they can be, so much so that they revamped their entire playing style ahead of their qualifier win over Sligo and the quarter-final against Mayo.

Experience

While Galway played some eye-catching football at times against Kerry, they lacked the experience to really put it up to the Kingdom when they had got back into contention.

Not that Kerry aren't blessed with some wonderful footballers as always, with James O'Donoghue garnering plenty of praise for the way he has led the line in the absence of Colm 'The Gooch' Cooper.

And he is well supported by the likes of Johnny Buckley, Paul Geaney, Declan O'Sullivan, and Bryan Sheenan, all of whom know where the posts are and how to hit from all over the park.

But Mayo have been a team with an ‘it’s all about business’ approach this year, getting on with the job from game to game.

They have not been as eye-catching as they were at this time last year, but all that matters is the result, and with a full deck of players to pick from James Horan will be thinking about that and nothing else.

The result at the end of the day determines everything. Playing football that is lovely to watch is great, but at the final whistle the final score is the main thing that is burnt into the mind. Seventy minutes is all that stands in the way of Mayo and a third All Ireland final, and those 70 minutes will be meticulously planned for by all involved with the green and red.

 

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