It is not the Connacht final we expected to see but it certainly is one that has been widely anticipated after Sligo threw away the form book when comprehensively disposing of Roscommon in the semi final. It is slightly ironic that it is the 40th anniversary of Sligo’s famous win against Mayo in the final. The big question on everybody’s lips is will they be able to produce again against the current Connacht kingpins to prevent the green and red going for an unprecedented five in a row.
Although I hope for a competitive and entertaining game I do think Mayo will have far too much for the men from the Yeats County. The bookmakers see it as one sided, offering Mayo at odds of 1/10 which is a fair reflection considering where they have been in the last four years. For those confident Sligo fans you can get a very generous 7/1 if you fancy a shock. If you think Mayo will win on the handicap you can get even money on them to win by more than six. Having been brought up and living in Charlestown, Sligo is the team I never wanted to lose against as we are on the border. I am sure it is the same for current Mayo midfielder Tom Parsons, or probably even worse considering his home is in the Sligo half of the town. Next Monday I hope to hear something to the tune of Mayo’s best player should be playing for Sligo, it would mean of course that Parsons had a good game.
Tough tasks telling men they are dropped
Noel Connelly has let us know that he is picking from a full deck, which is a headache in itself for the joint managers. Connelly and Pat Holmes are traditionalists so the team that is picked is the team that will start, unless something happens to a selected player between the team been announced and game time. There are going to be some big names sitting on the Mayo bench, players that are used to being on the starting 15 will have to come to terms with a place among the substitutes. It is horrible telling a player he is dropped, sometimes it is easier if the player is carrying a niggle or has missed some training due to injury, there are always valid excuses not to select a player. When you have to tell a seasoned inter county player in the peak of his health that he is not selected, it can be very difficult but that is what managers have to do. I have seen grown men break down and cry as a result, I watched others run away from managers so the bad news could not be passed on. Noel and Pat’s predicament is a healthy one. It makes for a very strong bench.
You cannot go in cocky
Mayo most certainly have to treat Sligo with respect, if they go into the game cocky they could get caught out. Roscommon have done Mayo a serious favour in that regard, they issued the warning shot. If you take Sligo lightly you will lose. I spoke to Noel Connelly recently and he admitted that a very different and cautious approach was needed against Sligo. He admitted his players would have needed little motivation if they had to play against Roscommon, such was all the hype about the Rossies. Noel and Pat will have turned that on its head to use against Sligo. The fact that there is silverware on the line is always a big plus and therefore complacency should not be an issue.
Getting the match ups right
Mayo have to be wary of a few things. Sligo will have a huge crowd in Roscommon and they will all be in early as their minors are in the final and are expected to give it a good lash. Hyde Park will be rocking if the Sligo minors win. I have had a lot of Sligo supporters call into our shop looking for tickets. Mayo players are well able to handle the crowd but it is important not to let Sligo dictate, one big play from Sligo could make them feel like they have an extra man when the crowd get behind them. It is common knowledge now that Adrian Marren is the Sligo danger man and Mark Brehany is the orchestrator in chief. Marren scored 1-7 against Roscommon and Brehany sprayed the ball around like Ineista. The match ups on these players along with who picks up Pat Hughes on the edge of the square is key. Tom Cunniffe was given the task of marking Damien Comer against Galway and struggled, albeit he was isolated on several occasions. As a forward who likes to be near goal, the last thing you want to do is tear through your energy reserve chasing your opponent. Keith Higgins would be ideal in this regard to curb the threat of Marren and get him running away from the Mayo goal. Higgins had a few sticky moments with Danny Cummins in Salthill, but as normal he came out on top in his personal duel. Kevin Keane (allegedly carrying a knock ) or Ger Cafferky will be chosen to combat the aerial power of Pat Hughes on the edge of the square; Hughes was very effective against Roscommon and Mayo need somebody strong in the air to compete. I am sure Niall Carew has been working vigorously on how to curb the threat of Aidan O'Shea. It will be a big ask for rookie full back Kevin McDonnell who had to deal with a very off form Senan Kilbride. The problem for Sligo is Mayo have match winners all over the field so worrying constantly about O'Shea will open up opportunity for someone else. I expect Mayo to win by at least the six points on offer. Let the games commence.