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There will not be an inch given in any of the eight games in the second round of the Mayo GAA Intermediate Football Championship this weekend, with a number of exciting battles in store over the two days of action.
Rarely does anything come easy to Mayo in Hyde Park and on Sunday they were peering over the ledge and an exit from the Connacht championship at the hands of Roscommon, but they were able to go to the well once more when it was needed to eek out the win that puts them into the Connacht final.
James Horan sprang a surprise with the team he announced for Sunday’s Connacht semi-final against Roscommon this week when he opted to hand Conor O’Shea his first championship start at centre-half-forward alongside teenager Diarmuid O’Connor who will be making his second championship start after making his debut against New York at the start of last month.
James Horan threw a curve ball with his team selection for Sunday's Connacht semi-final against Roscommon, by omitting his captain Andy Moran from the starting line up. The Ballaghaderren man's omissions from the starting 15 will be the big talking point ahead of the throw in, with Breaffy's Conor O'Shea coming into the starting line-up for his first championship start in a new look Mayo team that will see O'Shea line up alongside his two older brothers Aidan and Seamus. Conor will line out at centre half forward with Burrishoole's Jason Doherty on one side of him and Ballintubber's Diarmuid O'Connor on the other flank. The full forward line will see Alan Freeman return to the focal point of the attack with Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O'Connor either side of him.
Mayo did the heavy lifting in first half in their 2014 championship opener, when they ground down the New York challenge with the minimal of difficulty. James Horan will have learned nothing new about his side, but will have been pleased to have been able to give some game time to likes of Alan Dillon who returned to Mayo colours for the first time since the All Ireland final as a second half sub, while debutant Diarmuid O'Connor marked his first senior bow with a well taken goal right at the start of the second half. The game also saw a little bit of history with the three O'Shea brothers on the field at the same time, for the first time when Conor O'Shea made his championship debut as a second half sub.
Mayo’s championship season will get underway on Sunday, thousands of miles away from home when they take on New York in the preliminary round of Connacht Senior Football Championship in Gaelic Park at 7.30pm Irish time.
Mayo limped out of the national league in spectacular fashion last Sunday in Croke Park against a much livelier and hungrier Derry team. What has everyone worried is Mayo’s failure and inability to make a numerical advantage count for the second time in three weeks.
Mayo left Croke Park on Sunday evening with far more questions than answers, as a 14 man Derry team ran at them and right through them, into the National Football League final in a fortnight's time. For the second time in the space of a few weeks, Mayo had a man advantage and a decent lead, but they were unable to see the game out and came up short in Croke Park. When Fergal Doherty was shown a second yellow card and ordered off the field for a late challenge on Aidan O'Shea in the build up to Mayo's goal 24 minutes in, it should have been the staging post for Mayo's march to victory. But, they never got moving as freely as expected and Derry ran out deserving winners.
Cillian O’Connor remains the one injury doubt for Mayo from those who were available for selection last weekend for Sunday’s Allianz National Football League semi-final in Croke Park. The Ballintubber attacker, who had to leave the action after just 10 minutes in Elverys MacHale Park last Sunday, may not make it back into the starting line-up for this weekend’s game. The team is due to be announced at some stage today (Friday, April 11).
Had Jack McCaffrey’s late effort made its way between the posts at the end of a crazy, madcap, frantic and frenetic clash between last season’s All Ireland finalists to hand Dublin victory, it is doubtful Mayo supporters could have left Croke Park feeling any more deflated on Saturday night.