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The Connacht Championship will throw-in, in three weeks time when Galway cross the Atlantic to take on New York, but Mayo are now in a holding pattern for the next nine weekends, until they in all probability take on Galway in Pearse Stadium in the Connacht semi-final. By that stage the Tribesmen should have two wins under their belts as they are down to face Leitrim a fortnight after their Big Apple adventure.
Now it starts to get real. While the championship is the ultimate barometer of success in Gaelic games, a successful league campaign is the foundation stone of what happens in the white heat of summer fare.
Let the battles commence. With the greatest respect to the FBD league it all starts in earnest for Mayo on Sunday when they travel to Killarney to take on All-Ireland champions Kerry. The FBD league did show one thing, that Mayo are a little bit behind in terms of preparation after succumbing to a well prepared Roscommon outfit in the final game.
The unfamiliar surrounds of Rathcline GAA Club in Cloneboney, Lanesborough, is the next stop of the road for Niall Heffernan’s Mayo u21s this Saturday in the semi-final of the Hastings Cup. Standing in the way of Mayo and a place in the final against either Galway or Leitrim is another Connacht side in the shape of Roscommon.
Following Mayo's defeat to Roscommon in MacHale Park for the first time since 1986 in the FBD League on Sunday afternoon, it's all eyes on Mayo's next game against Kerry in the opening round of the National Football League on the first Sunday in February. Speaking after the Roscommon game, joint Mayo manager Pat Holmes said that his side have a few injury worries still to clean up ahead of the contest. “Injuries are clearing up and we're hoping that Keith Higgins would be back playing football next weekend. Aidan O'Shea is a wee bit away and Ger Cafferkey has a back strain, so were getting closer to a full panel. We're happy from that point of view” he said. As for the two most experienced outfield players in the panel Andy Moran and Alan Dillon, it will be a bit further into the Spring before we see them in green and red he said, “They will be more long term, they won't be playing football for the next month or so anyway.”
Mayo's interest in the FBD League ended in Elverys MacHale Park on Sunday when an hungry and slicker Roscommon team went home with the points and the provincial bragging rights thanks to a five point win over the Connacht champions.
Niall Heffernan’s Mayo u21 footballers picked up their second win on the bounce in group three of the Hastings Cup in James Stephens Park, Ballina last Saturday, with a comfortable win over Monaghan. Tomorrow afternoon in the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence they will wrap up the group stages of the competition with the visit of Wicklow. The Garden County men picked up their first win in the competition last Saturday, when they saw off the challenge of Westmeath in Blessington thanks to a 3-5 to 0-9 win.
New Mayo captain Keith Higgins and Aidan O'Shea may not be back in action for Mayo until at earliest their league opener against Kerry in three weeks time. Speaking after Mayo's win over IT Sligo in James Stephens Park, Ballina on Sunday joint Mayo manager Noel Connelly when asked about some of the more experienced players yet to return to action for Mayo this year and were there any injury concerns over them said:“A few niggly ones, Keith Higgins is coming back from a hamstring injury, Michael Conroy picked up a strain on the hamstring last Sunday. A few of the others, (like) Aidan O'Shea is just getting back in training, so maybe one or two of those guys would be only there or there abouts for Kerry, but certainly would be ready for the home game against Tyrone you'd be hoping to pull from all of those seasoned players.”
“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.
You don't often hear an inter-county manager saying it was the wrong decision taking on the job, or it was wrong that they were offered the job in the first place. But Pat Holmes did admit last Saturday night that when he was appointed Mayo manager for the first time in 1999 it probably wasn't the right choice by him to take it on or for the county board to offer it to him.