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The first weekend of the Mayo GAA senior championship had a little bit of everything including one side lining up their entire 15 players in their own half for the start of the second half of their game, a heroic struggle between Mayo men Aidan O’Shea and Colm Boyle against each other for the pride of the parish, the return of Cillian O’Connor to action for Ballintubber and late, late fight back from Kiltane to break the hearts of Shrule-Glencorrib who made the long trip to Bangor.
The last time Mayo faced Monaghan in the National Football League was four years ago, they lost out to the Ulster men by two points in the village of Inniskeen. Mayo’s visit back then to the home of Patrick Kavanagh gave them plenty of food for thought and set them off on an adventure that would see them reach two All Ireland finals and two All Ireland semi-finals over the next four summers.
Despite being named in the program to start the game at midfield Ballina native Gavin Duffy was a late withdrawal from the starting line up before throw-in on Sunday in the second round of the FBD League against IT Sligo in Ballina.
So far so good for the new Mayo senior management team of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes as their side picked up their second win of the year with a comprehensive nine point win over the visitors IT Sligo in James Stephens Park, Ballina on Sunday.
“Work hard, that was it, simple as that. We wanted fellas to work hard.” That was the mantra to his players before the game from Mayo joint manager Pat Holmes last Sunday after his and Noel Connelly’s side had seen off the efforts of NUIG in the opening round of the FBD League.
Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly got their senior management tenure off to a winning start in Elverys MacHale Park on Sunday. The fare on show wasn't anything that will be remembered for long, but it got a few miles in the legs of a a couple of new and some returning faces in green and red.
It's been some week for Noel Connelly, the former Mayo captain was appointed as the new joint manager of the Mayo senior football team alongside his old running mate Pat Holmes. While the whole appointment process and the wrongs and rights of it were played out in the public spotlight, Connelly also had to be preparing his Hollymount-Carramore team for Saturday afternoon's Egan Jewelers Intermediate Championship semi-final replay against Belmullet. Last weekends meeting between the sides wasn't anything to write home about as Belmullet played to their strengths and packed their defence and hit Hollymount-Carramore on the break and used the sharp-shooting of Jonathon Donoghue to keep themselves in the game.
With the senior side bowing out of the championship in Croke Park last weekend, Ray Dempsey’s minor side will be looking to build on their Connacht championship win over Roscommon when they take on Monaghan on Saturday in Longford in the All Ireland quarter-final. Dempsey was able to mastermind Mayo’s first Connacht minor title in seven years thanks to a narrow win over a battling Roscommon side in Castlebar back in July and this Sunday’s game against the runners up in the Ulster Championship could send Mayo back to Croke Park. While they rode their luck at times in the Connacht final especially in the first half when Roscommon kicked themselves out of the game with some poor shooting, Mayo never let their opponents superiority on the field during the opening half get to them and kept plugging away before they took off on in the second half. Dempsey knows it’s going to be a big ask on Saturday and there is a lot of pressure on his side. “It’s nice to be here but as each game goes by the pressure builds up on you and your team. But this is where we want to be and that’s what comes with it.”
Gerry Fahy’s county minors face a tough game against last year’s All-Ireland finalists Mayo in the curtain raiser on Sunday (12.10pm).