IN THE SPOTLIGHT David Clarke’s kick-outs will be the focus of much attention again next weekend against Donegal. Pic: Sportsfile
1 Mayo’s walking wounded
WITH Camp Mayo not in the business of divulging any significant information about injuries these days, in keeping with the likes of Dublin and Donegal, it can be difficult to say for sure which injured players may be back in the mix for next Saturday evening.
However, it seems that Keith Higgins (groin) and Paddy Durcan (quad) will both be available for selection after sitting out recent games.
The Donegal clash is likely to come too soon though for Diarmuid O’Connor (broken wrist) and Matthew Ruane (broken collarbone), but the word on the grapevine is that Tom Parsons continues to make significant progress in his recovery from a serious leg injury.
Could he yet make a dramatic return before the summer is out?
2 The Stephen Rochford angle
THE manner of Rochford’s resignation as Mayo manager last August — told by the Mayo GAA chairman that he no longer had the support of the County Board executive — meant that his first game as Donegal coach/selector against his home county was always going to attract attention.
The fact that the game turns out to be essentially a knock-out All-Ireland quarter-final in front of a packed MacHale Park crowd will only increase the amount of focus on the ‘Rochford returns to take on Mayo’ angle.
After managing this Mayo squad for three years, only Kerry coach Donie Buckley would have a greater knowledge than Rochford of their strengths and weaknesses.
A proud Mayo man he may be, but it will be strictly business for the Donegal coach next weekend.
3 The kick-outs conundrum
EVERYONE in Mayo’s backroom team has been busy this summer, especially the over-worked medical team, but you’d have to imagine that Tom Higgins, the squad’s goalkeeping coach, has also been flat to the mat on the training ground.
The former Westport goalkeeper was recruited by James Horan to work with David Clarke and Rob Hennelly, so this week he will have been trying to come up with ways to deal with the Donegal ‘high press’ that is guaranteed to be in operation on Saturday.
The Ulster champions will have seen how Kerry cracked Clarke’s kick-outs in Killarney so it will be fascinating to see what Mayo come up with.
4 The MacHale Park factor
MAYO’S record at the venue this season reads: played five, won three, lost two.
The only championship defeat, of course, was the one point Connacht semi-final loss to Roscommon and since then Armagh left Castlebar empty-handed after a thrilling Qualifier game.
James Horan’s challenge next weekend is to try and extract as much of an advantage as he can from Mayo’s first ever home match in the ‘Super 8s’.
The fact that the capacity of the stadium has been reduced to just over 25,000 has increased the possibility that next Saturday evening’s match will sell out.
So the place will be rocking come 6pm with a large Donegal contingent expected to travel and Mayo set to bring anywhere in the region of 15,000 supporters.
5 The bottom line for Mayo
IT couldn’t be more straightforward: if Mayo beat Donegal they will qualify for their eighth All-Ireland semi-final in nine seasons. More than likely it would be against the All-Ireland champions, Dublin, the following weekend — on Saturday, August 10.
However, if Mayo draw or lose then their championship will end there and then.
One way or the other, it’s been one hell of an adventure!