Familiar faces from Mayo looked to, to down the Tribesmen

GAA: Connacht SFC

Meeting old foes: Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O'Connor tackle Declan Kyne last year, both Mayo men have been to the forefront of Mayo's meetings with Galway in recent years. Photo: Sportsfile.

Meeting old foes: Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O'Connor tackle Declan Kyne last year, both Mayo men have been to the forefront of Mayo's meetings with Galway in recent years. Photo: Sportsfile.

Over the past six seasons Mayo have faced Galway five times in the Connacht championship, next Sunday's meeting in Pearse Stadium will be the sixth meeting in seven years. The most basic statistic from the previous five meetings is that Mayo have won four of those five meetings with Galway's solitary win coming in last year's meeting in Castlebar. In those five games Mayo have outscored Galway on a cumulative score of 9-69 to 4-53, unsurprisingly in those five games Cillian O'Connor has accounted for 30 of Mayo's 69 points.

O'Connor is one of just four players who have started in all of those five games for Mayo, in total 39 different players have played some part for Mayo in these meetings with our southern neighbours under three different managements, James Horan (2011 to 2014 ), Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly (2015 ) and Stephen Rochford who took over for the 2016 season onwards. The other three players to start all five games were Keith Higgins, Aidan O'Shea, and Kevin McLoughlin, showing the importance of this foursome to Mayo's cause. Three of them started in Mayo's championship opener two weeks ago against Sligo, with Aidan O'Shea coming on as a sub and if he was not still regaining full fitness he would have probably started that one too. O'Connor is well out in front in these games on the scoring front against Galway in the championship, with Kevin McLoughlin the next nearest to him from that foursome - with the Knockmore man scoring four points over those five games, Aidan O'Shea registering just one point, and Higgins not registering a score. Four other players have all played some part in these games, either starting or coming on a substitute in them, Seamus O'Shea (four starts ), Donal Vaughan (three starts ), Andy Moran (three starts ), and Alan Freeman (two starts ) - however the Aghamore man has opted out of the squad earlier this year, so he will not be able to add to his run against Galway this time around.

Experience a consistency of selection

The 2011 season was a comeback year for the county after their disappointing season in 2010 and Horan had yet to fully put his stamp on the side, with the unit that came together in 2012 still forming the backbone of the current Mayo side under Stephen Rochford, and that can be seen by the fact that two stalwarts of the current team, Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle, joining the previously mentioned eight players in playing in the four meetings between the sides from 2012 to 2016 and starting all four games. When you take Freeman out of the equation, there are nine of the probable starters for next week's game between the teams still back-boning the team. You can throw Jason Doherty into the mix too, as the Burrishoole man started in four of the last five games against Galway, with the 2013 meeting the only game he did not play a part in for Mayo against Galway in recent years. The goalkeper position has been shared out by the current incumbent David Clarke (two starts ) and Robert Hennelly (three starts ) over this run. 

The continuity of Mayo's team selection has been one of the biggest reasons for their success in recent years, with familiarity and experience driving them out of many tight situations when it came to the crunch in games. Breaking into the team for others has proved difficult, with Brendan Harrision, Patrick Durcan, and Diarmuid O'Connor the only others who have really nailed down their places in the starting 15 over the past few years. Ger Cafferkey has been a mainstay of the team in the full back line over the past half a decade or so, he will be making his third start against Galway in the championship in this run from 2011 onwards if he gets the number three jersey as expected come next Sunday - with injury having taken him out of last year's game between the teams. 


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