The last time Mayo faced Monaghan in the National Football League was four years ago, they lost out to the Ulster men by two points in the village of Inniskeen. Mayo’s visit back then to the home of Patrick Kavanagh gave them plenty of food for thought and set them off on an adventure that would see them reach two All Ireland finals and two All Ireland semi-finals over the next four summers.
On Sunday, when the sides meet, Mayo will have home advantage far away from the ‘Stony Grey Soil’ of Monaghan that Kavanagh wrote about, as they look to get their league campaign back on track after their loss to Tyrone three weeks ago.
The big news from the Mayo camp ahead of the game was the culling of a number of players from the squad, with Alex Corduff, Caolan Crowe, Keith Rogers, Stephen Duffy, Morgan Lyons, Adam Gallagher, Gavin Duffy, and Enda Varley all being released from the senior set up last weekend.
While Duffy grabbed plenty of headlines over the last year, without playing a competitive game for Mayo, the cutting of Varley is the biggest name to be cut loose by the Mayo management team. The Garrymore man made seven appearances for Mayo last year in league and championship, six of them off the bench, scoring 1-4 during his time on the field.
Mayo will also be without eight players due to injury for Sunday’s game, with Evan Regan, Chris Barrett, Tom Parson, Brendan Harrison, Andy Moran, Alan Dillon, Michael Conroy, and Jason Gibbons all ruled out for the game.
After their disappointing loss to Tyrone last time out, the Mayo management will have used the intervening three weeks to get their side up to speed on their plan of action. Mayo struggled to break down the Tyrone mass defensive system that day, and with Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke favouring a similar style of play, Mayo supporters will hope that the break will have given Mayo plenty of time to work on a plan of action to break down the Farney county’s wall of defenders.
Each side comes into the game on the with one win and one loss in the bank. While Mayo’s win over Kerry stole most of the headlines in round one, Monaghan’s crushing defeat of Tyrone in Omagh laid down a marker of their intent, they will be disappointed to have lost out to Cork in Castleblayney in round two.
Speaking this week to the national press, Mayo captain Keith Higgins, said “It’s the time of year you can’t get too worked up about it. Like after winning below in Killarney, you can’t get too far the other way either, when you lose. It would be worse if it was the summer, and you weren’t able to get around it then.” Talking about the change over in management this year Higgins said: “It’s like anything, when a new management comes in it takes a while for them to get used to things. And coming from having four years with James, we got used to the set up and his way of doing things. So it probably took everyone a few weeks to find their feet, but it is going well so far. And in fairness to James Horan, he put a very good set up in place. There was a good structure around him, the players bought into that really. The onus is on the players to set that standard again, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”