It may still only be January, but the meeting of Mayo and Roscommon at any stage of the season is always an encounter to look forward to, and on Sunday Mayo will make the long trek to Kiltoom to take on their neighbours in the final round of the FBD League.
The Rossies' have two wins from their two outings so far thanks to a hammering of IT Sligo in round one where they ran in six goals in a 6-21 to 0-15 win, they followed that up with a 1-17 to 0-14 win over NUIG last weekend to leave them top of group one with four points from two games and a scoring difference of +30. Mayo with just two points from their opening two games thanks to last weekend's win over IT Sligo have a scoring difference of just +4 so they would need a massive victory over Kevin McStay's side if they are to have any chance of making it to the final of the competition the following week where Galway will be waiting for them.
The FBD League is never the be all or end all of the season, and while a victory on Sunday is preferable ahead of Mayo's first league outing on February 4 against Monaghan in Castlebar, getting some game time into the legs of the more experienced players and letting the newer faces settle into the set up is the most important thing. Last weekend Stephen Rochford brought local boys David Clarke and Evan Regan back into the starting line up along with Alan Freeman, David Drake, Jason Doherty and Cathal Carolan with that half a dozen having been away on the team's holiday until late last week.
But of more interest to those of what might be coming through the ranks was the fact he gave another start to the Castlebar quartet of Ray O'Malley, Donie Newcombe, Eoghan O'Reilly, and Danny Kirby, with both Newcombe and Kirby showing some impressive qualities over the 70 minutes. Liam Irwin also got another start in the full forward line, while Fergal Boland continued his progress in the senior set up lining up at wing forward and contributing three points from play. Another Castlebar man, Cian Costello who had started the previous week came in for Irwin midway through the second half and finished up with two points to his name, while James Durcan who replaced an injured Jason Doherty after he took a knock to his head early doors, showed some good flashes and chipped in with a point.
But on Sunday, with much bigger tests looming over the next few weeks, it is expected that Rochford will turn to some of his more experienced heads. Cillian O'Connor made his return to action late on last Sunday and calmed things down up front and looked a cut above the rest, while also on the bench last Sunday were Tom Parsons, Colm Boyle, Jason Gibbons, Aidan O'Shea, and Donal Vaughan. The Ballinrobe man did enter the fray for Drake midway through the second half but was shown the line before the end of the game. Others who should be in the shake up for game time on Sunday who have not got on the field yet this year include Robbie Hennelly, Andy Moran, Keith Higgins, and Kevin McLoughlin.
With just a fortnight to go before the start of the National Football League, Sunday will represent the last chance for a number of the newer players to show they have what it takes to be kept around for the league and really stake a claim for involvement over the summer months.