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Mayo have made two changes for Sunday's Connacht final clash with Sligo from the team that lined out against Galway in Pearse Stadium in their semi-final win in Salthill five weeks ago. Back into the starting line up comes Ger Cafferkey and Donal Vaughan, with the Ballinrobe man wearing the number three shirt and Cafferkey the number two jersey. Whether both men actually play in those positions on Sunday remains yet to be seen, with Cafferkey normally occupying the full back position. Out of the side have gone Belmullet's Chris Barrett and Westport's Kevin Keane, Keane missing out after he picked up an injury in last Sunday's A v B game in Elverys MacHale Park.
Mayo made it five wins in a row in Salthill last Sunday against Galway in the first real test of the Holmes and Connelly era with a bit to spare. While the gap was only four points at full time whistle in reality, Mayo always had the Tribesmen fended off apart from a brief period at the tail end of the first-half that culminated with Gary Sice's thunderbolt of a goal.
Cillian O'Connor has won his race to be fit for the start of the championship and has been named at full forward for Sunday's showdown with Galway. Former team captain, Andy Moran has also returned to the starting 15 and will line out at corner forward with Jason Doherty in the opposite corner to Moran.
The time is nigh. Mayo will put their Connacht championship on the line when they travel to Salthill in Galway to take on the home side in the Connacht semi-final on Sunday. It has been 10 weeks since we watched the green and red in competitive action, but the time seems to have just dwindled away, such was the anticipation about what may unfold in Salthill.
It’s been a long wait and it's nearly over. Since Mayo last tasted competitive action almost every other county has been involved in championship action, with Sligo the only side to have not got their summer underway by the time Mayo throw in against Galway on Sunday. This will be the first proper test of the Holmes and Connelly management ticket in the white heat of championship action and they couldn’t have asked for a more traditional joust than a meeting with Galway in their own back yard.
And so it begins. The Football championship got underway last weekend as New York became the first team out of the Championship. I know they say as you get older time goes that little bit faster but still it’s extremely hard to get my head around that it’s over a year since Mayo played in New York. It was Galway’s turn this year and as expected they had little trouble in eliminating the emigrants from the Connacht Championship.
With Mayo’s involvement in the National League over I had a brief look back at their games to do somewhat of a summary of their performances throughout the competition. There is no question it was a roller coaster campaign with lots of highs and lows involved.
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.
I am sure many of you felt as deflated as I did last Sunday. After leaving Elverys MacHale Park deflated I went home to watch the game again on TG4, and just in case I missed anything on second viewing I had to watch Sunday Sport later on that evening to see what the pundits said about the game. The reality is Mayo should be playing in Croke Park this Sunday against Cork in the semifinal of the National League. They threw away the game against Donegal or should I say kicked away. Some wayward shooting late on cost us a place in the semifinal.
After seeing his side fail to hold on for a win in the dieing stages of a game for a second week in a row, joint Mayo manager Pat Holmes expressed his disappointment after the game, but still was happy with what his side have gotten out of the league. “You’d always like to be in a league semi-final. Today we came to put in a performance, the same as every game we’ve played. In fairness to the lads they worked very hard today. We just didn’t get over the line.