FLASHBACK Jason Doherty is pictured in action the last time he played for Mayo — against Donegal — in the All-Ireland SFC ‘Super 8s’ match in Castlebar on August 3, 2019. He is in line to return next Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
FOR the first time in living memory the Mayo footballers will begin a National League campaign ‘at a home away from home’ when they take on Donegal at Markievicz Park in Sligo next Sunday (throw-in at 1.45pm).
Ongoing pitch resurfacing works at MacHale Park in Castlebar means that Mayo have taken the decision to ‘hit the road’ for their three home National League games this season.
The first stop is Sligo and early indications are that the ‘sold out’ signs could be going up before next weekend with Markievicz’s current capacity of 12,000 likely to be filled by Mayo and Donegal supporters who are keen to watch some ‘live’ football again.
The Mayo News understands that a total of approximately 4,000 Season Tickets holders, between the two counties, are expected to attend: Mayo having between 3,000 and 3,500 Cairde Maigheo members and Donegal registering around 700 annual subscribers.
This left approximately 8,000 tickets to go on general sale yesterday morning (Monday), all of which can only be purchased via GAA.ie/tickets and in select Super Valu and Centra stores. Most of them are expected to be snapped up over the coming days.
Meanwhile, Mayo continued their preparations for their return to Division 1 action next weekend with recent challenge matches against Leitrim and Clare.
Among those to line out against the Banner men last week was Oisin Mullin, who is understood to have been taken off after picking up a slight knock during Mayo’s defeat.
Others to feature were Brendan Harrison and Jason Doherty, both of whom will be hoping to return to the Mayo first XV next weekend after lengthy spells on the sidelines.
However, next weekend’s game will come too soon for Cillian O’Connor who is still working his way back to full fitness from a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Speaking to The Mayo News Football Podcast recently, Colm Boyle said he believed that the return of the aforementioned players from injury will have a big bearing on Mayo’s season.
“The big thing for Mayo is can we improve? Can we get a couple of players back?” said the recently-retired defender.
“Cillian is a big one for the team. Jason Doc’ [Doherty] is back, Brendan Harrison — can we get these guys back? They’d be a huge addition to get them back into a squad and into a position where they were pushing for minutes.
“There’s definitely reasons to be optimistic, but it’s going to be tough,” he added.
“Looking at Mayo’s fixtures in Division 1, obviously we have no home game, but you look at them and think, “Jesus, getting points out of every one of them is going to be an absolute battle’. So there are huge games there, and two weeks after the league you’re straight into the championship.”
Donegal, who are coached again this season by former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, come into Sunday’s game on the back of a McKenna Cup Final defeat to Monaghan last weekend.
Meanwhile, James Horan is believed to have begun the process of downsizing his extended squad last weekend.
The Mayo News understands that a number of players were released back to their clubs following an intensive training period over the last six weeks.
From last year’s championship panel, James Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels) and Jack Coyne (Ballyhaunis) are understood to be among those who have been released.
Information for fans
MAYO GAA have reminded supporters that next Sunday’s game is an all-ticket affair and no tickets will be available to purchase at Markievicz Park on the day.
All tickets must be purchased in advance.
As parking around the ground is limited, patron are advised to arrive early and obey all the stewards and Gardaí on duty inside and outside the ground.
The gates at Markievicz Park will open at 12 noon on Sunday.
Supporters are asked to have their digital tickets ready for scanning on arrival at the turnstiles. Admission cost is €15 for adults and there is no charge for Juveniles (Under-16). Match programmes will be available to purchase inside the ground.
Mayo GAA Chairperson Seamus Touhy said he was excited and delighted to be welcoming supporters back to games again.
“It has been a tough two years for everyone and I just want to wish the team and supporters all the best,” he said.
“We are thrilled to be welcoming back our supporters this coming weekend and I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable trip to Sligo.”
Mayo v Donegal
Sunday, January 30
Sligo at 1.45pm
Live on TG4