1. What contribution can Aidan O’Shea make?
WHEN the Breaffy midfielder came bounding on to the field just six minutes into the second half of the Connacht Final, little did we think that he was about to change the entire shape and direction of the game.
Especially when you consider that it was his first appearance in a Mayo jersey since the National League game away to Kerry on April 8.
Since the win over Sligo, O’Shea has got another sixty minutes for his club under his belt (against Davitts in the club championship) and by all accounts his sharpness and stamina are improving by the day.
James Horan has got a big call to make when he sits down to pick his team this week.
Does he start O’Shea alongside Barry Moran and go for broke from the start, or does he wait until the time is right and pitch the 22 years-old in like last time?
It is a decision that will have a big bearing on the result.
2. Can David Clarke keep another clean sheet?
EVERY goalkeeper measures their performance by a dozen different small things but the bottom line remains the same: clean sheets.
Mayo have now played approximately 160 minutes of championship football this summer and have yet to concede a goal.
In fact, David Clarke hasn’t had to make a single save against Leitrim and Sligo.
Contrast this with last season when London put two goals past Robert Hennelly in Ruislip and Paul Conroy buried one for Galway in Mayo’s first two games.
The coaching staff have been working with the team’s goalkeepers, defence, midfielders and half-forwards to ensure that Mayo’s goal is better protected this season.
But the litmus test comes next weekend at Croke Park.
Interestingly, Mayo have conceded a total of ten goals on their last five trips to HQ against Dublin, Cork and Kerry.
Their last clean sheet at Croke Park came in the All-Ireland Qualifier against Tyrone in 2008.
Another shut-out will be top of David Clarke’s list of targets when he hits the field.
3. Can the forwardline click at Croke Park?
THE record books will show that twelve points was good enough for Mayo to win the 2012 Connacht SFC title. The main reason for that was because the team’s defence restricted Sligo to just ten scores at the other end.
However, the fact remains that Mayo’s attacking blade will have to be considerably sharper next weekend if they are to reach their second successive All-Ireland semi-final.
Consider these statistics for a moment; just three points registered in the entire first half, twenty-two scoreless minutes, and three of the starting six forwards failed to score from play.
These are bullet-points that James Horan will have been discussing with his forwards in recent days.
Cillian O’Connor has contributed just one point from play in two games from centre-forward while Jason Doherty has yet to score.
A move to the inside line for O’Connor and a goal from Doherty could get things back on track.