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3 questions ahead of Armagh’s arrival


BIG THREATArmagh’s Rian O’Neill scored 2-1 against Monaghan last weekend. Pic: Sportsfile

Edwin McGreal

Will Mayo make any changes?
JAMES Horan made five changes for the trip to Down to the team that started against the Rossies, but it’s highly unlikely that he will shake things up as much this time around.
His selection for the match-day squad of 26 will centre on the match fitness or otherwise of Cillian O’Connor, Donal Vaughan and James Carr.
It’s hard to see any of those players going from not being in the 26 one week to starting seven days later, but nothing can be ruled out.
Positional changes are also likely. Could we see Kevin McLoughlin going out to the half-forward line? The Knockmore man has not been himself closer to goal and we could see a swap with Jason Doherty or Conor Loftus.

Can they contain Armagh’s attacking threats?
THERE’S no doubt that Armagh’s attacking duo of Jamie Clarke and Rian O’Neill have the capacity to make Mayo’s night a very long one on Saturday.
Both are from Crossmaglen (though Clarke has transferred to Neasden Gaels in London), and the pair were pivotal players in their win over Monaghan.
O’Neill, a nephew of Crossmaglen and Armagh legend Óisin McConville, struck for two goals. The 20 year-old is big, strong, fast and two-footed. He tends to drift between centre-half forward and full-forward. He is a very impressive long-range free-taker too.
Clarke is a tricky and nippy corner-forward who, on his day, is capable of being one of the best in the game. Armagh have been using him out the field as much as inside recently.
We can see Brendan Harrison going on O’Neill while Clarke’s roving duty might see Keith Higgins track him.

How ready are Mayo for this latest test?
THIS is the key, and obvious, question. They played well at times against Down but seemed to lose their way after Conor Loftus’s third quarter goal.
Armagh will be a step above Down, as is evidenced by their Division 2 league status.
Mayo have been slow starters in Qualifier campaigns but were helped by favourable draws in previous years. We’d argue Armagh — next to Kildare in Newbridge last year — is the hardest Qualifier draw Mayo have been handed these past four years.
Mayo will need to be ‘at it’ from the start.
Home advantage usually counts for a lot in the Qualifiers but Mayo’s record in Castlebar is hit and miss.
As our columnist Billy Joe Padden has often pointed out, the heavy surface just does not suit Mayo’s style.
But if enough of Mayo’s key men are at the right pitch in terms of intensity, then the pitch surface should be no issue.