Mayo ready to emulate Galway record of five in row

Sligo’s semi-final ambush likely to ensure champions won’t lose concentration

The most obvious windows of opportunity for Sligo would appear to be bolted shut going into tomorrow's Connacht final. They were the last county to defeat Mayo in the province but that was five years ago last month.

The champions are on course for a record-equalling fifth provincial title in a row – a feat managed only once 55 years ago by Galway – but any inclinations towards ennui will have been curbed by the new management team. Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly are still awaiting their first senior championship.

Sligo's excellent win over Roscommon in the semi-final was a coup for Niall Carew and his team but it also advertised pretty widely their strengths and discarded the element of surprise.

Mayo had a heavyweight arm-wrestle in Salthill with a competitive Galway but there were no great innovations on display, just a positive sense that the team were holding together after a gruelling few years on the road. Aidan O’Shea’s deployment was as close to a departure as anything on the day and switching him from centrefield to attack proved a useful variation.

Challengers

Eamon O'Donoghue's analysis of Sligo's performance on kick-outs in this newspaper on Thursday showed the extent to which the challengers have sacrificed primary possession for mobility with their centrefield pairing of Cian Breheny and Niall Murphy.

Roscommon’s domination of the restarts wasn’t enough for them to build a winning score but their wastefulness with scoring opportunities was a factor. If Carew configures the team as selected it’s hard to see the supply lines improving for Sligo.

Mayo press hard on opposition kick-outs so going short won’t always be an uncomplicated option and they have formidable ball winners in the O’Sheas and Tom Parsons.

If they generate the sort of statistics that Roscommon managed, it’s hard to see Mayo squandering the opportunities given how economical they were against Galway.

Sligo's most impressive line has been the full forwards with David Kelly and Adrian Marren working off bustling target man Pat Hughes.

They'll try to create space to isolate Mayo's defence, which has a familiar look today with Ger Cafferkey and Donal Vaughan back but, assuming Tom Cunniffe drops back and switches with Vaughan, the man marking will be stickier than Sligo experienced in the semi-final.

Mayo won’t take this for granted but they’ll looking for improved performances as well, so that they can start raising the tempo for August. Sligo may challenge but they’re not going to win.