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There’s no easy way to win an All Ireland, and boy are Mayo doing it the hard way. It’s back to headquarters on Saturday for another swing at Kerry as the look to book an All Ireland final date in Croke Park in September.
When 15 minutes before throw in, it was announced that Footballer of the Year - Lee Keegan wouldn’t be starting there was an air of fear amongst the Mayo supporters who made the pilgrimage back to Croke Park on Bank Holiday Monday. But once the ball was thrown in that unease was soon vanquished as Mayo went right at Roscommon and rolled them over in impressive style at the second time of asking.
It wasn’t pretty for a long time, but when it came to the crunch Mayo dug deep and ground out the win the required against Derry in MacHale Park. The wide count almost tallied the scores for Mayo on the day, as they looked like they might kick themselves out of the championship and only for a late rally they could very well have been looking at the rest of the summer free from inter-county action.
Mayo left Salthill with even more questions to answer than when they were turned over by Galway at the same stage of the competition last year. Last years win by the Tribesmen in MacHale Park - was seen as a smash and grab raid by the visitors, one that Mayo would learn from. This result was something else entirely, the decision by Stephen Rochford to drop Colm Boyle from the starting line-up was something that had everyone talking in the build up to throw in.
Mayo got over their first hurdle of the championship season with a nine point win over Sligo in MacHale Park on Sunday afternoon, but Stephen Rochford will be looking for a big improvement from him his side come their meeting with Galway next month.
Sligo are the only team on the minds of Mayo players and management as they prepare an assault on the 2017 Connacht championship against the Yeats County in MacHale Park on Sunday afternoon. Both Stephen Rochford and his captain Cillian O’Connor were quick to shoot down any notions of Mayo being talked up as Nestor or Sam Maguire cup contenders until those trophies were on the line in a given game. Until then the name of the game is entirely the opposition in front of them.
When word filtered through that Cavan had drawn with Kerry at half time in this encounter, the permutations and combinations of results that would be needed for Mayo to stay up in division one if they couldn’t come home from Omagh with win under their belts were being worked out by the supporters. But come full time in this one Mayo had put their destiny back in their own hands, thanks to Kevin McLoughlin’s brilliant winning score.
Mayo went down to a third league defeat of the season against a suffocating Cavan side in Castlebar on Sunday afternoon, the loss leaves them in the relegation scrap at the bottom of the table with tough encounters against Tyrone and Donegal up next on the horizon for them.
It’s a long way from the business end of the year, but the determination shown by Mayo to dig out what looked like an impossible victory as the game moved towards the end of normal time and they trailed by five points is something that will warm the spirits of the Mayo faithful ahead of their league opener against Monaghan in a fortnights time.
Mayo picked up their first win of the season with a six point win over IT Sligo in Ballina on Sunday, but they will have to serious up their performance if they are to pick up a second win next weekend when they face Roscommon in their final group game of the FBD League and improve even more two weeks later when they host Monaghan in the opening round of the National Football League. That was the message from Mayo manager Stephen Rochford post their win on Sunday.