A WORD IN THE EAR Mayo selector Ciaran McDonald has a word with Mayo manager James Horan during National League game against Dublin back in February. The competition is due to restart in mid-October. Pic: Conor McKeown
Team’s season will be defined in five weeks
THE Mayo senior footballers are facing into the prospect of five ‘make or break’ matches in the space of five successive weekends in October and November — hoping to win all five to try and retain their National League top-flight status and win the Connacht championship title.
That’s the state of play after the GAA revealed its fixtures schedule for the revised 2020 season which restarts on the weekend of October 17/18 when Mayo take on Galway in their refixed round six National League match.
That begins a run of games that will see Mayo conclude their league campaign at home to Tyrone before taking on Leitrim in the quarter-final of the knock-out Connacht championship a week later.
A win there would set James Horan’s charges up for a clash with Roscommon or London a week later in the semi-final, with a victory there earning Mayo a place in the Connacht decider against Galway or Sligo on November 14/15.
No venues have yet been officially confirmed for any of those championship fixtures.
“It’s a really tough schedule for Mayo,” former Footballer of the Year Andy Moran told The Mayo News last night. “That was my first thought when I saw the fixtures!
“Let’s say you’ve got two clubs in a County Senior Final [fixed for September 19/20] who have some county lads involved. The schedule is so tight that guys will be trying to manage injuries and then you’re into two make-or-break National League matches a few weeks later.
“Mayo need to win both of those so you’re looking at possibly losing some players coming into the Connacht championship a week after the Tyrone game.
“On the other hand, what brilliant preparation!” continued Moran. “There’s no danger of any team going into the championship cold, anyone who is fit will be ready for action.
“From a Mayo perspective, lads like Seamie O’Shea and Chris Barrett will get football with their clubs; and you’ll have the likes of Fionn McDonagh and Mattie Ruane back, two lads with great legs around the middle of the field. That’s a huge positive given the way that James Horan wants the team to play.
“Those two league games against Tyrone and Galway are obviously huge,” he added.
“The objective is to win them and stay up, but the big thing heading into the championship will be the performances. Mayo have to get into their rhythm.”
The Mayo manager, the team’s strength and conditioning coach Conor Finn, and team physios Brendan Butler and Mark Gallagher, spoke with Mayo club managers and coaches last Thursday evening via video link in an effort to share information and ensure that both county and club players are equipped to cope with the busy schedule of games in the months ahead.
Andy Moran believes it was a very worthwhile exercise.
“I think it was a great idea, that good communication is going to be vital over the next few months. Club managers need to be be respectful of what James is trying to do to get his team ready for the upcoming games, and James needs to respect what the clubs are trying to do.
“Mayo have been very fair in that regard over the years, I think, and it’s a lot better than in some other counties.
“Last week’s meeting gave those of us working with club teams an outline of what the plan is, and the relationship between the clubs and county managers is so important.
“The Mayo players have to have the freedom to do the running and skills sessions. They need to be done. That’s how those county players get up to top speed.
“Conor Finn is top class and he will have the lads ready. His knowledge and experience is going to be crucial and is a huge plus for Mayo.”