GAA: National Football LeagueTwo games in to his first National League campaign, Stephen Rochford would have hoped that he would have some points on the board to show for it. But that is not the case. Injuries and club commitments had robbed him of a number of key players for the games against Cork and Dublin. Since that Dublin game, Mayo have had three weeks to get themselves up to pace after only coming together right at the tail end of last year.
On Sunday, Mayo will hit the road for the second time this season when they make the 175km trip to Ballybofey to take on a bang in form Donegal side that are currently sitting on top of the division one table, with two wins from two and a points difference of +27 having scored 5-29 in their 140 minutes of football. Mayo have managed to put up just 0-19 in their two games, a whopping 5-10 less than their opponents on Sunday, while Mayo have also conceded 13 more points than the men from up the road.
Donegal hitting the high notes
Donegal have been very impressive so far this year putting the hurt on Down in Newry and sending Cork the 490km back home after a thrashing in Ballybofey. The Donegal scoring effort has been well spread out over the side, with Michael Murphy kicing 0-9 in his two games so far, Paddy McBrearty landing 1-7, Oradhan MacNiallais chipping in with 1-4, Ryan McHugh has hit the back of the net twice and another half a dozen players finding the target at least twice in their opening two rounds of games.
Donegal manager Rory Gallagher has overseen the successful start to the season, minus a couple of big names from his panel, with Christy Toye and Neil Gallagher maybe back in the reckoning for this weekend, and Karl Lacey and Colm McFadden yet to make their returns to the side this season. He has also used the league so far to give game time to the like of Eamon Doherty, Hugh McFadden and Eoin McHugh as he looks to blend in some fresh faces to his vastly experienced side.
Returning faces for Mayo
As for Mayo and Stephen Rochford it is expected that he will be able to call on the services of both Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins to start on Sunday. The Westport defender was out of action for their last game against Dublin after the concussion he picked up in the opening day defeat to Cork. While Higgins did see some time from the bench against Dublin, he followed that up with a starring role for the Mayo hurlers in their league win over Dongeal a fortnight back playing the full 70 minutes before being taken off in injury time. He had been selected to line out for the hurlers last weekend again against Meath, but following discussions between both the football and hurling management it was decided to give him a rest rather than have him play three games in three weeks.
Rochford will also be hoping that both Donal Vaughan and Tom Parsons will be able to take some part in the game after both of them had to leave the field in the Dublin game with injuries at half time an on 42 minutes respectively, while Kevin McLoughlin is also another doubt with an hamstring injury. Rochford should have at his disposal for the first time this year Hollymount-Carramore's Stephen Coen who was tied up with club commitments until recently and who also played a leading role in UCD's victory in the Sigerson Cup last weekend where he kicked their final point to put the college two points clear with time almost up.
This weekend's game sees Mayo kick off a run of three games on the bounce with a trip to Clones coming up next weekend to take on Ulster champions Monaghan. That game was moved to the larger venue after initially being announced for St Mary's Park in Castleblayney. They will then follow that up with a home game against Kerry in MacHale Park, before they have a week off ahead of the hotly awaited trip to Hyde Park to take on Roscommon in their second last game, before they wrap up the group stages at home to Down on the first Sunday in April.