Final four spot up for grabs on Sunday

When they took over the job of joint Mayo managers, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly’s first competitive priority would have been to ensure that Mayo maintained their top flight status. With one game to go it looks like the duo will achieve that target, at least unless we ship a serious loss to Donegal and Tyrone overcome Kerry by a handful of points. So a win for Mayo on Sunday will send them into the semi-finals on either Saturday or Sunday week.

Last Sunday’s stirring showing against a Cork side who have already booked their spot in the semi-finals, having lost only once to Monaghan on the road in round two, will have Mayo in good stead going into the game on Sunday.

Their erratic home form that has seen them lose badly to Dublin and Tyrone in rounds two and four is something the Mayo management duo will be hoping to see eradicated on Sunday, and with Donegal shorn of their talisman Michael Murphy who picked up another black card last Sunday, Mayo will go into the game as favourites.

One thing that Holmes and Connelly have not been afraid of so far in the league is mixing things up in their team selection, and the introduction of Tom Parsons for his first start in the league this season added another string to their bow for the year ahead. The Charlestown man, who put in an all-action display last Sunday in Cork, scoring three points and driving forward with power and pace, was a welcome sight for Mayo supporters. His athleticism adds something extra to a Mayo midfield that also boasts Seamus O’Shea, Barry Moran, and Jason Gibbons. It has also allowed the duo to free up Aidan O’Shea to stay more advanced and let Donal Vaughan revert to defence, where he is more at home.

The return of Ger Cafferkey in defence is also something that has boosted Mayo. The Ballina Stephenites man put in a excellent showing last weekend, keeping Cork’s sharp-shooter well under wraps on Leeside.

Of course Mayo will still be without their star forward Cillian O’Connor who is still recovering from a knee injury, but the Mayo attack was boosted last weekend by the return to the match-day squad of Andy Moran, who got a few minutes into his legs at the death of that contest. The experience of the Ballaghaderreen man is something that Mayo will need over the course of the summer, and the more game time he gets the better for the side.

Mayo were also short of the services of Seamus O’Shea and Diarmuid O’Connor due to injury last Sunday, and the pair could be back in contention this weekend if their problems clear up. Castlebar Mitchels’ Patrick Durcan will also be available for selection after he served a one game suspension after getting sent off the previous week against Galway in the u21 championship.

The position of the number one goalkeeper is still down for decision, with David Clarke getting the nod last Sunday for his second start of the league. Robert Hennelly has started three games, with Kenneth O’Malley getting the number one shirt for just the Derry game so far, all though the Ballinrobe man was the sub keeper for last weekend’s game against Cork.

The Mayo team for Sunday’s game is expected to have been announced last night, after this newspaper went to print.

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