Mayo’s 3 main priorities
1 Staying in Division 1
It’s not going to be easy but James Horan will be looking for three things from the National League campaign that throws-in next Sunday against Kerry in Castlebar.
First and foremost, he will want to ensure that Mayo remain in Division 1 for next year. After all, it’s vital that the players are exposed to this elite level of football every spring.
With that in mind, James will be looking to win at least one of the first two home games against Kerry and Tyrone.
It’s vital for the progress of the group that they pick up a few wins as quickly as possible and then James can experiment a bit more maybe in other games down the line.
Safety first will be the policy because Mayo really have to pick up at least two points from these two matches.
The ‘worst case scenario’ would be to lose both games and then you’re under pressure ahead of away matches in Dublin and Down. It makes everything a little harder.
Realistically, both the Kerry and Tyrone matches are 50/50 games for Mayo.
They both won their respective provincial leagues impressively last weekend and are obviously moving well.
In contrast, Mayo’s performances in the FBD League were patchy and between the All-Ireland Final, injuries, and the team holiday to Miami they haven’t as much work done maybe as some of their opponents at the moment.
2 Finding some new players
JAMES has already been quoted as saying that he’s looking to find three or four players that can be serious options come championship time.
He’ll be on the look-out for backs, forwards, midfielders and ‘impact’ subs that can come in off the bench and do a job next summer.
I’m of the opinion that you can only really blood one or two newcomers at a time in competitive games at this time of year.
Keith Rogers and Evan Regan (when he’s fully fit) are two players I would love to see involved sooner rather than later. They are two exciting young players who need a run of games to show what they can do.
Guys who have been in the squad for a few years now are going to be given opportunities over the coming months too and it’s up to them to take them.
I’m thinking of talented lads like Seamus O’Shea and Chris Barrett who have had injury problems but are fit again, and can really add something to the mix.
3 Moving things on
OVER the next four or five months it will be interesting to see how Mayo’s fitness and physical strength and conditioning progresses.
The All-Ireland Final last year showed that Donegal were still some way ahead of us in these departments but they’re probably further down the road than us in terms of the work they’ve been doing over a number of years.
Mayo are getting closer though and it’s time now to close that gap even more.
Bringing a new coach on board is also a very good move. Donie Buckley’s arrival will mean a new voice on the training ground, a new approach for the players, and just help to freshen everything up in the third year of this regime.
Make no mistake, James will have identified year three of this project as being the year he wanted to make his mark.
He may not have said that publicly but, given the huge progress that has been made in the first two years, who would bet against him hitting his targets in 2013?
Mayo need to build on what they did last year. They need to get bigger, faster and stronger and they need to do everything better and quicker.
Individual players have to become even better at their own jobs and the group needs to improve as a unit too.
Next Sunday’s game will draw a line under the All-Ireland, the All Stars, the holiday to Miami, and all the rest of it.
It’s time to get back to work.
Just a thought …
We all know Andy Moran won’t be back in action until April 1 and I think we’re going to realise what a huge loss he is in the weeks and months ahead.