There is one thing for sure about Sunday’s National League game against Tyrone and that is Mayo will not be underestimating the challenge facing them when Tyrone come to town.
Mayo captain Keith Higgins knows that Mickey Harte’s men will be smarting after their opening day defeat to Monaghan at home last Saturday night. Speaking after his side’s win over Kerry last Sunday, Higgins said: “The way division one is now, you need to get points wherever you can. A few years ago you might have been able to pick a few games where you said you’ll definitely get points, but the way it’s gone so competitive you can’t do that now. Every game becomes so important, Tyrone are coming down after a loss and they’ll be mad to get back up and running so it’ll be a huge challenge for us again. It’ll probably be a different game and we have to try and build on things and get new systems going under new management. Most of our work will be on ourselves and getting our own game plan going. They’ll be coming down gunning for two points, but we have to focus on ourselves, it’s no real rocket science or major tactics at this time of the year, we have to look at ourselves.”
His joint manager, Noel Connelly, also said that Mayo would have to be wary of the challenge posed by Tyrone after Mayo’s win over Kerry last Sunday. “They were leading at half-time and were turned over, they won't be happy and they'll be coming to Castlebar with a sting in their tails, and we'll have to be ready for that. It's vital in our first home game that we win that. We'll have to work hard, it's only two points today, we need to knuckle down on Tuesday night and prepare for the next game,” he said.
Tyrone lost out to Monaghan by seven points last Saturday night in a game in Healy Park in Omagh in a game that was held up for more than 30 minutes due to a floodlight failure. What will have most irked the Red Hand county is that at one stage in the first half they led the Farney county men by five points, but were held to just two points for the closing 50 minutes of the game.
Lots to work on but lots of positives too
Mayo will welcome back Cillian O’Connor to their ranks on Sunday after he served his one game suspension from last summer against Kerry last weekend. The Ballintubber hotshot was in Sigerson Cup action this week when his UUJ side were knocked out of the third level competition by DCU in Belfast, with O’Connor scoring just one point from free for the Ulster side.
Evan Regan’s very unfortunate injury, combined with the news that Michael Conroy had an Achilles problem that forced him to come off before full time, despite putting in a top class showing where he scored four points in the 47 minutes on the field, will be softened by the return of the two time national young player of the year.
Last weekend’s game saw the Holmes and Connelly ticket try out a number of new and old faces in their starting 15, and they were richly rewarded by a number of them. Mark Ronaldson who was making his first league appearance in a number of years, put in a big shift in the corner and his work-rate was superb throughout. Stephen Coen looked in a bit of bother in the full-back line, but when he was moved out to the half-back line, with Chris Barrett swapping positions, the Hollymount-Carramore man really stood up. Patrick Durcan looked calm and composed in the half-back line, the Castlebar Mitchels’ youngster looks to have serious future in front of him if he keeps up his rate of progress over the last few years. Kevin Keane put in a warrior shift in the number three shirt, looking physical and composed under constant bombardment from the Kerry attack.
Mayo did struggle at midfield where Seamus O’Shea and Donal Vaughan failed to really compete in the air with Bryan Sheehan and David Moran, but they put in a serious amount of work bottling up the Kerry duo when they landed and not letting them move the ball quickly.
The introduction of Aidan O’Shea to the action with 20 minutes to go, solidified the Mayo side when Kerry looked to be getting on top. O’Shea swept up between the half-back line and midfield, and put his power to good use breaking through with the ball and setting up Mayo attacks. Playing O’Shea in this position could be a serious option for Mayo this year, letting him protect the defence and launch attacks from this area is an avenue the Mayo management are sure to explore in the coming weeks.
While Mayo know that Kerry were not fully up to pace last Sunday, they will be up for a different challenge in MacHale Park this time around and will be looking to stop Tyrone making it three wins in a row as many years in the National Football League. Throw in is at 2pm on Sunday.