MAGIC MOMENT Ciarán Treacy picked a great time to score his first goal for Mayo. Pic: Sportsfile
3 big league positives
1 Greater options discovered
WE make it three new players who are now meaningful starting options for the summer. Matthew Ruane is nailed on at midfield, Fionn McDonagh might be in a battle with renaissance man Fergal Boland for the number ten jersey, while Michael Plunkett has looked assured in every game he started.
By the time championship comes around, there may be others in the mix for starting berths. James Carr, Ciarán Treacy, Conor Diskin, Brian Reape and James McCormack have all shown, to varying degrees, that they have something meaningful to offer, either pushing for a starting spot or inclusion in the match day 26.
2 Players reinvigorated by new roles
AIDAN O’Shea’s versatility often saw him moved to where the need was greatest rather than where he is best. It’s no coincidence his excellent league campaign coincided with a return to midfield.
The role allows him compete for more kick-outs, help out at the back, and make the most of his rediscovered kicking game.
Jason Doherty has fitted in well on the forty in O’Shea’s absence, a superb outlet for hard won ball on the forty while Kevin McLoughlin is enjoying himself in the full-forward line too.
3 Mayo’s kicking game
SO far this year Mayo, like many other counties, appear to have a renewed appreciation for direct kick-passes inside.
Perhaps it’s the advanced mark that is encouraging it, but there also seems to be a realisation that when a direct ball inside is on, it is worth the risk of a turnover for the potential reward on offer.
Players like Aidan O’Shea, Mattie Ruane, Fergal Boland, Kevin McLoughlin, Diarmuid O’Connor and Darren Coen have shown a great ability to look for the dangerous pass inside when it is on and Mayo have reaped the reward of direct play.
3 questions to answer
1 Who plays in goal?
DAVID Clarke and Rob Hennelly have been fighting hard for the goalkeeper’s jersey, and both enjoyed very good league campaigns.
Hennelly was excellent in his two outings in Croke Park, and Mayo might not be league champions were it not for his superb late save from David Clifford.
But Clarke is not a two-time All Star for no reason and has been rock solid in his time between the posts.
Both started four games each and it is hard to know who Horan’s number one is. Because Clarke was out of the league final due to injury, Horan has not had to fully reveal his hand yet.
2 Can Mayo improve with more players at home?
MAYO’S poor league form in recent years has often been put down to the difficulties of split training during the week in spring with so many of Mayo’s players training in Dublin midweek and only collectively at weekends.
That changes in summer though once students are home and those working in Dublin commit to going up and down to Dublin for midweek training.
But after such a successful league this year, there has been much less talk of this being an issue. It surely cannot have gone away though and it will be curious to see if Mayo get a bounce once summer football begins in earnest.
3 Have Mayo the game to beat Galway?
‘Will Galway beat Mayo?’ remains a question for every era.
While Mayo have to navigate New York and then the winners of Roscommon and Leitrim, those are games Mayo are expected to win to set up a likely provincial decider with Galway, a team Mayo have not beaten since 2015.
Mayo, arguably, have played the better football over the course of the last four seasons across the full year, but in the direct clashes with Galway, the Tribesmen come up trumps and did so in the league this year too where Mayo again were unable to find a way to win.
Will summer be different?