Mayo will make the long trek to Celtic Park on Sunday to take on Derry in the fourth round of the National Football League. This will be the third Ulster opposition that Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly’s side have faced on the bounce after their loss to Tyrone in round two, and their win over Monaghan last Sunday.
Mayo will head to Derry minus the services of their u21 contingent, who will be in championship action on Wednesday evening next against Leitrim in the preliminary round of the provincial championship in MacHale Park.
Last Sunday saw Cillian O’Connor return to the starting line-up for the first time this year, and the Ballintubber man kicked five points in the 55 minutes he was on the field.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser this week in his role as a ambassador for Persil’s Kits for Schools campaign, for which he will be appearing at lunch time in SuperValu Castlebar, today Friday, March 6, O’Connor said about last Sunday’s game: “I was happy with the result because with the three week break, you do a lot of planning and talking about what you’re going to do. If you lose that game after all that planning it could be a bit demoralising, it was good to bounce back from the Tyrone game with a performance.”
Getting points on the board and moving up the table is the most important thing he went to say: “It was good to get that Monaghan win. Sometimes people can overreact to league wins or league defeats so it was good to get that win. It sets us up nicely and we’ll be confident going up there, and we’ve four points in bag and we’ve plenty reasons to believe we can get the win.”
The Ballintubber sharpshooter said that it was a goal to reach the semi-final stages of the league and to get as many good competitive games under their belts before the start of the championship. “The more games you can get at division one level the better, if we can keep going and get the points there’s no reason why we can’t go on and try and get into a semi-final or a final. But that’s a bit away, we need to make sure that we get the points in Derry, because it’ll be tough, and they’ll be mad keen for the win after their draw with Tyrone last week. So we’ve to make sure that we can improve on our own performance against Monaghan too,” said the UUJ student.
O’Connor, who is a post-grad student in UUJ this year, lined out in Sigerson Cup football for the first time this year, and over all it was an enjoyable experience, he said, even if his side didn’t go on to win the competition. “It was good, it was a different experience from the McKenna Cup in January. I got an experience of playing against different counties and seeing how they do it. We’d a good run in that and we just came up short against a really good DCU. The margins are very narrow, we’d a good team, but they had probably a little bit more depth than us.”
This is the first year that O’Connor has been involved in the Mayo senior set-up without his clubmate James Horan at the helm, but he’s enjoying the new experiences. “It’s been good, though it was disappointing to see the lads go after last year. I hadn’t played under anyone else for Mayo so it was good to get a different perspective and freshness into it. It re-energised the whole thing. So far so good.”
As for his involvement with Persil’s Kits for Schools campaign, O’Connor said: “It’s something nice to be involved in and I was delighted to help out the schools get gear for the young lads and girls. It’s a great thing for them and it’s promoting a healthy activity so that’s no bad thing. If I could have got my hands on a kit when I was back at that age, or any jersey, I’d have grabbed it.”