It will take exactly three hours to cover the 122 miles it is between Castlebar and Letterkenny according to the AA on its website. So to make the 2.30pm throw in in comfortable time Mayo supporters will be leaving home from the county town not long after 10.30am on a Saturday. While Saturday evening games have become the norm for the National League, this weekend Mayo have the unusual fixture of a Saturday afternoon game against Donegal. The change in the fixture is something that the Mayo manager, while not overly happy with, will have to deal with. “It’s a strange one all right, when we heard that the game was not going to be played under lights we assumed it would be switched to a Sunday. But as far as I know it’s to do with TV rights that the game has to be on Saturday. It’s far from an ideal time for supporters to make a trip to Donegal and we need all the supporters we can at the games, and the people of Mayo want to come out and support us. We also believed that the game would then be played in Ballyshannon, but it was moved further away to Letterkenny, and this was all only decided last week, which was very late.”
The Ulster men have held the upper hand on Mayo on the last few occasions when they clashed swords in the National League, with Donegal snatching a last minute victory in McHale Park last season and the O’Donnell county winning out in Croke Park in the final of the National League in 2007.
Mayo supporters will be hoping that the side will be able to kick start back into action after the poor start against Derry just under a fortnight ago in Ballina. Of Mayo’s three away games in the league this year, this weekend’s trip to Letterkenny on paper looks the most winnable, with games away to Kerry and Galway left to come. While Mayo put in a below par performance against Derry on the opening day, Donegal had nothing to write home about themselves losing to Kerry 2-13 to 0-11, but the game itself was over as early as half time when the Kingdom led by 2-8 0-3 allowing the Munster men to take their foot off the gas in the second half.
Giving the run of the
Last Saturday night under the lights of Flanagan Park Mayo took on and saw off the challenge of Cavan in the Tim Kelly cup final. While this clash is not a marquee name on the GAA circuit, John O’Mahony will have been happy with the opportunity to have a look over a number of players who didn’t get a run out against Derry or were only getting back into action with the side. The game itself was a useful run out according to O’Mahony: “It’s always good to get a few more games under your belt. The u21 lads had their own game that evening so it gave us a chance to give a run over some of the lads who didn’t get a game against Derry and the others who we are trying to bed into positions.” O’Mahony picked six different players from those who started against Derry, only Barry Moran and Trevor Mortimer retaining their place in the forward six and scored 2-3 between them. Seamus O’Shea and Kieran Conroy both also got their first run out of the year, while Kenneth O’Malley completed his comeback from injury to take over in goal for the second half in place of David Clarke on his home pitch. Ger Cafferkey got another chance to impress at full back and for the second weekend in a row kept his man scoreless as O’Mahony stuck with five of the back six who started against Derry, with only Colm Boyle coming into replace Pat Kelly. John O’Mahony will be sticking with the same central spine on Saturday as he tries to built some stability into the side. “We gave Ger Cafferkey, Tom Cunniffe, and Barry Moran a run out in the positions they played in against Derry last weekend again. We will be going with the same spine on Saturday because you have to get some sort of solidity”
Time for improvement
Mayo supporters will be looking for a big improvement from the side’s attack on Saturday from the Derry game, where Mayo recorded the lowest score of any of the sides which were in action in division one, including Donegal who were comprehensively beaten by Kerry. The selection last weekend of Barry Moran at full forward again hints that the long term plan for this year is to leave the Castlebar man at the edge of the square. Moran had a certain amount of success in the opening stages of the clash against Derry, but midway through the first half Mayo seemed to forget about the tactic of playing the ball into him. Trevor Mortimer who scored 1-2 last weekend from centre half forward will be another player a lot of supporters will have their eye on as his powerful running game will be key if Mayo are to go home with the points. Talk on the terraces and from supporters is that lack of fight and spirit was the most disappointing aspect of the defeat a fortnight ago and major improvement in this is the key thing supporters are keen to see improve. Improvement is what O’Mahony wants to see also. “ We want to go and get the points and put in a good showing as we always do. We have a couple of doubts with Alan Dillon not playing last week, but he came through training on Tuesday night and we’d be hopeful. Andy Moran also missed out last week and he was only able to do some light training on Tuesday, he is a major doubt and we will be looking very closely at him until Saturday. Austin O’Malley didn’t train or play last week because he was out with the flu so we have to see how he gets on this week. While Aidan O’Shea is in schools action on Friday night so he won’t be available.”