Following Mayo's defeat to Roscommon in MacHale Park for the first time since 1986 in the FBD League on Sunday afternoon, it's all eyes on Mayo's next game against Kerry in the opening round of the National Football League on the first Sunday in February. Speaking after the Roscommon game, joint Mayo manager Pat Holmes said that his side have a few injury worries still to clean up ahead of the contest. “Injuries are clearing up and we're hoping that Keith Higgins would be back playing football next weekend. Aidan O'Shea is a wee bit away and Ger Cafferkey has a back strain, so were getting closer to a full panel. We're happy from that point of view” he said. As for the two most experienced outfield players in the panel Andy Moran and Alan Dillon, it will be a bit further into the Spring before we see them in green and red he said, “They will be more long term, they won't be playing football for the next month or so anyway.”
Having used in the region of 40 players in the three FBD League games, Holmes was happy to have been able to have used the January competition to give players a chance to impress, saying: “I suppose you see a lot of players. The idea for us in the FBD League was to see a lot of players and I'd say we've probably looked at about 40 players and we knew that there was going to be a step up in intensity and quality today, because obviously we'd played two college teams up until this and now we were playing an inter-county team and that proved to be the case and we did somethings well, but we did a lot of things poorly because of the pressure and the intensity that Roscommon put us under. But it served a purpose for us as we always said the FBD League was for looking at players and it has done that. Are we happy with the FBD League? Yes we are. Are we disappointed we didn't win today? Your probably disappointed we didn't win or put in a better performance, but all in all it's been a useful exercise.”
The game saw a number of flare ups between players during the second half and the match had more serious edge to it than their two previous outings against NUIG and IT Sligo, when asked was the edge to the game something he had hoped for Holmes said:“Absolutely, we're now coming to the stage where we are two weeks away from playing Kerry in the National Football League. We'd a few players out today playing their first game. I think we'd seven players that were starting for their first game of the year, the likes of Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, Seamus O'Shea, Diarmuid O'Connor off my head they were guys starting their first game. It was important to get some ball into their hands and running into their legs as well.”
With Mayo now having a weekend off after they didn't make it into next Sunday's FBD League final, Holmes said there would be no changes to their plans despite the lack of another game between now and the meeting with Kerry in a fortnight. “At the end of the day, we planned our week for Tuesday, Friday and Sunday and that won't change. We don't have the game so we'll have to organise some other football activity and we'll get that sorted” he said.
With the FBD League now over and upwards of 40 players looked at there will be some to drop off the panel in the next few weeks Holmes said he expects saying. “We're reviewing the panel all the time and there's a possibility after the playing the three FBD League games that we'll release a number of players.”
The issue of Gavin Duffy raised its head again, but Holmes had a simple explanation for the absence of the former Irish rugby international from his match-day panel for the game saying: “Gavin Duffy works for Connacht Rugby, he got off last weekend with a view to playing. They have a home game today and as a result of that he couldn't get off work to play. It's as simple as that, but he's cleared to play, no drama on that one.”