Mayo have edge in novel match-up
NO BAGGAGE in this one. It’s hard to believe given the rich history of the two counties, but this is a novel first-ever championship meeting between Down and Mayo. What’s more, it’s a quarter-final which either might have hand-picked – given the chance – with a view to progressing to the championship’s penultimate stage.
Who will it be? There are arguments for and against. Mayo keep Aidan O’Shea in reserve despite his apparent return to full fitness after a stomach muscle injury and, in a way, that is a statement of intent and confidence in those who took a relatively straight-forward route (beating Leitrim and Sligo) in the defence of their Connacht title.
The question remains, however, about how seriously Mayo have been tested and, of course, there is always the sideshow of how they so regularly underperform when playing at Croke Park. Surely their win over Cork at the equivalent stage of last year’s championship has put that one to bed? Maybe. Maybe not. The league final defeat to Cork earlier his season brought back those old bad memories.
One thing is for sure: Mayo’s preparations, despite the lack of matches, have been finely tuned.
They included a mini-camp away in Limerick last weekend, at the same time as Down were undergoing recuperation of their own in beating Tipperary in the qualifiers following their heavy Ulster final loss to Donegal.
That Down managed to recover so swiftly from the hangover of that provincial final defeat says a lot about their character. Central to their cause against Tipp was the performance of Ambrose Rogers whose physicality and athleticism were on show yet there is often an over-reliance in attack on Benny Coulter and Mark Poland.
Although Down won the league meeting between the two earlier this year, much has changed in the interim. Conor Mortimer is no longer playing any part for Mayo but there would appear to be a greater depth to their squad. One area where they fell down in the Connacht final win over Sligo was in winning breaking ball around the middle of the field. Such slackness in this department this evening could prove costly and cut out the necessary supply in to Andy Moran and co in attack.
The feeling is they have learned a lesson and those mistakes won’t be repeated.
Previously: New ground and the makings of a new rivalry for both teams, who are meeting each other in the championship for the first time. In the National League earlier in the season, Down went to Mayo and emerged with a win.
You Bet: Mayo 4/7 Down 15/8 Draw 15/2
Just The Ticket: Stand €30 adult/€5 child (with adult); Terrace €20
MAYO: D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; B Moran, D Geraghty; K McLoughlin, C O’Connor, A Dillon; E Varley, A Moran, J Doherty.
DOWN: B McVeigh; D O’Hagan, D Gordon, C Garvey; N McParland, K McKernan, B McArdle; A Rogers, K King; A Carr, M Poland, C Maginn; B Coulter, C Laverty, E McCartan.
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).