The last time that Mayo lost in the Connacht championship was back in 2010, back then Davitts' flying wing-back Colm Boyle had fallen out of favour with the then Mayo management and it was another two years before he returned to the fold under James Horan. Boyle did not make it to that game as a supporter he said last week. "No I missed it, I was at a wedding the same day," but like many a summer wedding in Ireland he was one of a few missing in action from part of the celebrations, adding that he did see it on TV. "I missed the dinner over it."
The last time that these sides met in championship was in the 2012 final where Boyle had much more of an impact than cheering on Mayo on the TV screen, with six minutes left to go on the clock in Hyde Park the game was level at nine points each, Aidan O'Shea picked out the teak-tough defender who launched a looping shot towards the graveyard end of the ground, the umpires raised the white flag, when to many people's eyes it looked to have gone the far side of the posts. But the score was given and Mayo went on to put together back to back Connacht titles for the first time since 1997. Three years on and Mayo are back in the Hyde facing the same opposition and looking to make it five Connacht titles in a row. That game three years ago was a particularly tough encounter, he remembered, saying: "That's right there was very little between us in 2012, that day all the way, though I think it was very much level pegging until the last five or six minutes we got a couple of points, a very tough game and a great one to win at the time."
It was also against the Yeats County men that Boyle made his championship debut for Mayo seven years ago, another game he remembers well. "It was 2008, we played them out here [MacHale Park], we won by five or six we got over the line. I played cornerback that day marking David Kelly, I got on OK, he slipped in for a couple of points though." Boyle also was a student in his former life in IT Sligo where he played Sigerson Cup in the late part of the last decade, and would know a few of the Sligo players from then. "Myself and Keith [Higgins] would have been in IT Sligo around the same time as a few players from 2005 to 2008, be familiar with one or two of them."
He was not surprised at all that Sligo turned over Roscommon in their Connacht semi-final saying: "All the talk beforehand was on Roscommon winning the game, but if you look back on the last couple of years Sligo have had a couple of massive wins at home, beat Mayo in 2010 and Galway after that, not a surprise really." Before going on to say that they are treating Sligo with the highest of respect because they know exactly what damage they can cause Mayo on Sunday if they are let. "We'll treat Sligo and the game the same as we'd treat any other game, we're fully aware of Sligo's capability. They have some very dangerous players, up front they've as good as any team, with David Kelly, Adrian Marren, and Mark Breaheny, these boys have been around a long time, we're well aware of how dangerous they can be." He also added: "Sligo are there on merit, it's a huge game for both teams, it means as much to us as it means to them. Both are there on merit and it's a massive game for both of us."
Working out the kinks
Mayo have had five weeks to work out the kinks in their game since their win over Galway in Pearse Stadium, and there has been lots of work for them to do, Boyle admitted. "Couple of issues we wouldn't be happy with, the two goals obviously from our point of view weren't very good defensively and probably when we got a couple of scores we could have kicked on with when we went five or six up in the second half. Obviously we'd be looking to improve every time we go out and they would be things that we would look at."
Galway tried to man up to Mayo that day, but it was nothing less than they were expecting said the All Star winner. "We expected every bit of it, it was a championship game, we expect nothing easy from any team we play, Galway or any other team and we won't be expecting anything less from Sligo. I suppose with Galway we'd a couple of wins over them the last few years by a few points, and I'm sure that they came out and felt they had a point to prove, we're just thankful that we got over it."
It is there to be won
Having to go to Hyde Park is not something that bothers Boyle or his teammates it is a game to be won and that is the way he looks at it. "It's not an issue for us, had some good games and some great wins in Hyde Park, that's something that will bring some confidence to us, no problem if it was Hyde Park, MacHale Park, or Pearse Stadium, it's the same thing for us." Most of Mayo's recent outings in Hyde Park have been tough encounters but they have been valuable learning experiences he added, saying: "Sometimes you can learn a lot from yourself on certain days when it is a tight game, if you can just get out by that point or two in a tight game, it nearly feels almost like a better victory. Whatever we can get out by the next day we'll be delighted."