The battle for places in the match day 26 was a major factor in getting Mayo ready for their game against Donegal on Saturday. The lack of having a major test ahead of the game was something that many feared could count against Mayo going in against a battle hardened Donegal side, but Cillian O’Connor wasn’t to concerned about it saying after the game. “I don’t think it was really, you can only play what’s in front of you. The Sligo game we put up a big score, but it was tough work for us especially in the forwards. Although we were getting scores and making a big lead it’s still hard, it’s still hard work to do that. We relied heavily then on intensity in training and matches between ourselves and thankfully the competition, especially the last two weeks and three weeks has been massive, especially from the six or seven lads outside the 26, some tough calls had to be made because there are lads flying and training was brilliant coming into the game. You don’t know until you go out and play we had a few good sessions and we felt great coming into it.”
While Donegal looked the most obvious opponents for Mayo it was still only last weekend that they knew for sure they would be taking on 2012 All Ireland champions, not knowing their opponents until short notice was a distraction O’Connor said but they still had plenty to work on in their own game. “I suppose we had loads of stuff to work on ourselves, we put up a fairly big score but we had lots to work on ourselves, there were still a good few negatives from that game and stuff we wanted to work on ourselves, we worked on that early on and then once we knew our opponent we watched some stuff and we analysed them and worked on some stuff to combat them.”
Could have killed the game sooner
As for the game itself O’Connor said, “It was enjoyable, it was tough as expected it was an abrasive kind of game, it was physical, it was fast paced especially early on and we were happy to come through relatively unscathed with the win.” But he did think they could have closed the door on Donegal a bit earlier than they did, “Primarily it’s a ticket to the semi-final, that’s the biggest thing, it’s just a relief to get over them and knock them out and get into a semi-final. We didn’t concede that much, ten points is not to bad, we were defensively solid, got some good success from the runners from the half back line and midfield, the negatives are to see, we could have put them away a lot earlier and could have been more clinical there’s plenty there to work on.
With Mayo playing a sweeper system with Barry Moran coming in for Andy Moran, the Mayo forward unit were down a man from their normal set up. It was a different experience for O’Connor and the other forwards, but one they coped well with he thought. “I think there were less bodies up in the forward line especially in the second half, early in the first half we had good support from the back, we had options to pop it off to the runners. I suppose naturally when your kind of protecting the lead there in the second half you’re going to have to commit a few more bodies backwards. So you know it was little bit different having a bit more space up in the forwards but we adapted I suppose.”
Planning for the Dubs starts now
As for Dublin in three weeks time and how Mayo will set up to face them, that’s another days work and the planning for that will only begin in earnest this week the Ballintubber ace commented saying, “It’s hard to know, we haven’t really given any thought to them yet, we’ll have to go away and watch their games and see. They play a fairly defensive game too, they drop men back you know and Cian O’Sullivan was sweeping there in front of Quigley against Fermanagh and I suppose it might not be that different, but we’ll go and watch the tape and see.”