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3 big game talking points from Croker

Sport

TRYING TO KICK ON Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor has his shot blocked by Meath’s Bryan Menton during Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final Phase 2 match at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile

Mike Finnerty

1 Two week break to Game 8
AFTER playing five games in 29 days, Mayo finally get a chance to take a breath.
Let’s remind ourselves again of their recent schedule: June 22, beat Down in Newry. June 29, beat Armagh in Castlebar; July 6, beat Galway in Limerick; July 14, lost to Kerry in Killarney; and July 21, beat Meath at Croke Park.
That’s a lot of mileage, road trips, bus journeys, hotel stays and championship minutes as one match rolled into the next through the Qualifiers and on into the Super 8s.
It really is a phenomenally demanding schedule, but Mayo are still standing after playing seven matches in this marathon championship.
James Horan and company will now get two weeks to prepare for Donegal and the game that will make or break their summer.

2 Squad depth is really tested
ANOTHER week and another injury for Mayo to contend with.
This time it was Keith Higgins who was forced to sit a game out after picking up a knock at training during the week. And seeing the four time All Star defender in his tracksuit with some of the other walking wounded last Sunday — Diarmuid O’Connor, Matthew Ruane, Paddy Durcan and Tom Parsons — reminded all of us just how many key men that Mayo are missing at the moment.
One of the players who came into the breach was Fergal Boland, who was given his first start in two months against Meath. The Aghamore man kicked two points and paid his way.
And it’s worth noting that Oisin Mullin from Kilmaine was named in the squad for the first time after only being called in two weeks ago following the Mayo Under-20s defeat to Galway.

3 Stats tell tale of two halves
IT was easy to see why James Horan didn’t look happy at half-time on Sunday.
The teams were level but Mayo had just seven scores from the 19 shots at goal they had taken. Some of the butchered chances, wides and turnovers were hard to watch.
By the full-time whistle their scores to shot ratio read: 19/34, meaning Mayo converted 12 of the 15 shots they had at goal after half-time. This, of course, included their two goals.
It was a remarkable improvement, but an overall conversion rate of 56 percent won’t be good enough to beat Donegal.