1. Defensive solidity
AFTER conceding eleven goals in the National League last year, and coughing up 1-20 against Kerry last August, James Horan has made no secret of the fact that Mayo are working hard on their defensive system these days.
The concession of just one goal (against Roscommon in the FBD League) in five and a half games would suggest that the Mayo players are practicing what management has been preaching.
However, the first half of the abandoned game against Dublin presented plenty of evidence that Mayo’s defensive issues haven’t gone away entirely just yet.
Eoghan O’Reilly and Kevin Keane both started their first National League games against the All-Ireland champions and O’Reilly, in particular, had his hands full with the enigmatic Diarmuid Connolly.
But the fact that the full-back line got very little protection from any of their colleagues meant that the trio were often on a hiding to nothing as the ball rained into the space in front of the Dublin forwards.
A repeat of this in Armagh would prove costly.
2. Midfield movement
THE Mayo manager has confirmed that the lines of communication remain very much open with Ronan McGarrity as the experienced midfielder tries to build up his achilles tendons in Ballina.
In his absence, the O’Shea brothers, Aidan and Seamus, Pat Harte and Barry Moran look to be battling it out between them for the two midfield positions for the duration of the National League.
The Ballintubber duo, Jason Gibbons and Danny Geraghty (who will captain the Mayo U-21 team this year), are also trying to force themselves into the frame but currently seem to be well down the pecking order.
It will be interesting to see which partnership James Horan pitches in against Armagh’s Charlie Vernon and Malachy Mackin next Saturday night.
Barry Moran and Aidan O’Shea started against Dublin but never got into their stride, and it remains to see if they can complement each other in the long-term.
Mobility is going to become more of an issue as summer approaches and next weekend will be a big audition for the two centre-fielders that start.
3. Scoring threats
WITH Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran not yet firing on all cylinders as they continue their recoveries from their respective injuries, it goes without saying that Mayo’s forwardline hasn’t started to hit the high notes just yet.
However, a few things have become apparent about the team’s attacking division over the last two months.
Firstly, Conor Mortimer is leading the way in the scoring charts with 0-26 (0-17 from frees). Secondly, apart from Danny Kirby’s record-breaking four goals in one half in the FBD League against GMIT, Mayo have raised just one other green flag in over five hours of competitive action.
That goal came from Alan Freeman against Laois at the beginning of the month, and while it is far too early in the season for the alarm bells to be ringing just yet, Mayo’s failure to create many goalscoring opportunities will not have gone unnoticed by James Horan.
No score from play in the first 21 minutes against Dublin also leaves plenty of room for improvement next weekend.
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