GOLDEN MOMENT Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor scores his side’s second goal against Leitrim goalkeeper Brendan Flynn and Conor Reynolds during Sunday’s Connacht SFC quarter-final in Carrick-on-Shannon. Pic: Sportsfile
YOU certainly can be guilty of over-analysing a championship game against Division 3 opposition in horrible weather conditions, but it would be glib to say that Mayo’s clash with Leitrim last Sunday was just about getting the win and moving on.
We learned Cillian O’Connor is in flying form and looked as fit as we’ve seen him.
Indeed, many wondered if he could have been risked off the bench against Tyrone a week earlier. Perhaps, but only management and the medical team knew the extent of the risk involved there. There’s no doubting his absence against Tyrone was huge and might have been the difference between survival and relegation.
One of the most telling things we learned about the new-look side is that they are highly mobile, but not as physically strong in the middle third as the Mayo team of the last decade.
With no Colm Boyle, Seamie O’Shea and Tom Parsons, and with Lee Keegan and Aidan O’Shea both moved away from the middle, it is a very different-looking Mayo middle third now. High on pace and mobility, but lower on power.
Against Leitrim, we saw how trying the conditions can be in winter, especially when a team gets bodies back.
Galway didn’t do this and the space they left was plundered by Mayo.
Few teams will be as compliant as the Tribesmen were that day, and Roscommon certainly won’t be. Can this new-look Mayo team impose their style of play on the Connacht champions?
When Mayo were dominant against the Rossies in the last decade, it was often because they were physically dominant.
Then Roscommon manager, Kevin McStay, told this newspaper ahead of the 2017 All-Ireland Final about how the gulf in strength and conditioning was such a significant factor in Mayo’s All-Ireland quarter-final replay thrashing of his team.
We’re not sure the same gulf exists anymore.
Indeed, the Rossies may well be bullish about their chances of back-to-back wins over their neighbours. With their promotion to Division 1, and Mayo’s relegation in the opposite direction, there are some hallmarks of ships passing in the night.
It’s 40 years since Roscommon beat Mayo two years running in the championship.
Mayo have always been best when their backs are to the wall.
That’s a position they could well find themselves in on Sunday next.