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Mayo got back to winning ways in impressive style in Newbridge on Sunday afternoon with a seven point win over Kildare.
The shadow boxing and experimenting has come to a close, with the end of the FBD League last Sunday for Mayo. This weekend Mayo will make the trip to Clones in the reverse fixture of last year's National Football League opener which was won by the Farney county men in MacHale Park. The top division in the National Football League is a high intensity environment — Mayo want to hit the ground running and they will be targeting a win in this game.
Sometimes it’s not about being the better team, it’s about finding ways to win games when you are probably second best on the day. Dublin were able to do that, they were able to get themselves over the line right at the end when it mattered most and they claimed their third All Ireland title in a row.
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.
“Mayo football is in a critical state,” “the players are finished,” “the management aren't up to it,” “I hope Roscommon beat us to put us out of our misery.” They are just a small example of what I listened to last week in the build up to the replay against Roscommon. Fast forward three days and the Mayo for Sam bandwagon is in full swing. “That was Mayo's best performance in Croke Park,” “This is the strongest squad Mayo have ever had,” “every player played well,” “Rochford is a tactical genius,” “I think we'll win the All-Ireland this year.”
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.
They don’t make it easy on the faithful, but the Mayo congregation will head to church at least once more this summer after a dramatic draw with near neighbours Roscommon on Sunday in Croke Park. There were more than a few decades of the Rosary said by the traveling worshipers down the final few minutes of injury time as Mayo created and fluffed a few chances to win the game and the devotions were dedicated to the full time whistle blowing when Roscommon looked to steal it right at the end.
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.
Almost anything can happen this weekend in division one of the national football league, but there is one thing that Mayo need to see happen. Take at least a point from their game against Donegal and they can be assured of top flight football, simple as that. There are lots of other permutations and combinations that can see Mayo stay up, go down, or even end up in the league final as distant a possability that is.
Following their victory on the road in Tralee a fortnight ago, all eyes will be turned to MacHale Park tomorrow evening when Mayo host Roscommon in the third round of the National Football League. Whenever these sides meet, be it in pre-season competition on wet and boggy fields or in the height of summer, there is never an inch given by either side and tomorrow night's encounter is expected to be a similar encounter.