1. The many absent friends
IT’S important to remember that Mayo were without eight of their first team regulars last Sunday, against a Galway side that may not have changed a whole lot by time May 13 comes around.
With Seamus O’Shea, Tom Parsons, Brendan Harrison, Lee Keegan, Andy Moran, Keith Higgins, Chris Barrett and Donie Vaughan all missing last weekend’s game for one reason or another, Mayo were missing some pretty important pieces of their jigsaw.
Galway were without their Corofin representatives due to next weekend’s All-Ireland club semi-final, with the likes of Liam Silke, Micheál Lundy and Ian Burke set to return and push for starting spots in the summer.
Only seven of Mayo’s 2017 All-Ireland Final team started last Sunday, and Stephen Rochford’s teamsheet will look a lot different when the teams meet again in Castlebar in twelve weeks.
2. The late return to work
IT’S been reported that Galway began their preparations for the 2018 season as early as last November. This would go some way to explaining their flying start to the National League as it gives them a significant advantage in terms of collective training sessions to work on fitness and a system of play.
So while Kevin Walsh was putting his Galway side through their paces in early January, Mayo were living it up in Kuala Lumpur on their team holiday, smoking Shisha Pipes, drinking cocktails, and relaxing.
Not to mention that nine of Mayo’s 26-man match-day squad last Sunday are currently based in Dublin, meaning that their collective training has been been minimal compared to the Tribesmen.
Mayo are always a work in progress during late winter and early spring.
3. The element of no surprise
THIS Mayo team play their best football in the summer on hard, fast-playing pitches, and that’s no secret. A lot can happen in the space of three months and, by the time May 13 has rolled around, last Sunday’s game will be long forgotten.
Galway’s system is based around a regimentally-drilled defensive game plan which utilises their counter-attacking game-plan and pacy attackers. Throw in the elements (wind tunnels etc) at Pearse Stadium and Galway’s mass defence becomes even harder to break down.
But what can Kevin Walsh and company change come May that will surprise Mayo in MacHale Park?
Stephen Rochford and Donie Buckley have three months to come up with a game plan to beat Galway’s one-dimensional style, while the Mayo players have three months of thinking of ways to exact revenge for Connacht championship defeats in 2016 and 2017.
Consider the bear poked!