Preview: Connacht SFC - Mayo v Sligo
Sunday May 21
Connacht SFC Quarter-Final
Mayo v Sligo, Elverys MacHale Park, 2pm
By Cian O'Connell
Since 2011 significant standards have been set by Mayo. That is when this current team really started to develop, but the one piece of silverware they want most of all has eluded them. Mayo folk won’t rest easily until green and red ribbons are attached to Sam Maguire.
During the past six years Mayo have competed in gripping games, but there is no disguising the fact that the Connacht Championship loss to Galway in Castlebar hurt deeply.
Mayo did subsequently embark on an All Ireland Qualifiers adventure gathering belief and momentum as the Championship progressed, but Dublin were still able to secure the most coveted prize of the lot.
Despite that defeat Mayo remain classed as serious contenders so this type of match against a pumped up Sligo will examine the locals.
Two years ago in the provincial decider Aidan O’Shea’s physicality caused Sligo all sorts of problems so the Yeatsmen will need to be durable from the outset. Having only made a couple of substitute appearances during the Allianz Football League following injury O'Shea isn't included in the Mayo starting XV.
It was a strange Division Three campaign for Sligo, who registered wins over promoted Tipperary and Louth, but consistency was an issue.
Kevin McDonnell, who missed the New York victory, acknowledges it has been a factor. “Yeah, which is very frustrating,” McDonnell admits.
“For big games we seem to motivate ourselves better and approach the games better which is a fault of ours. It is a positive too that we can mix it with teams that are perceived to be better than us. We are confident going into games, but maybe not over rating ourselves is something we have to work on.”
McDonnell is adamant that Sligo have improved since their last summer meeting with Mayo in 2015. How Clare and Tipperary fared in last year’s Championship provides evidence of what can be achieved.
“Yeah, I think the gaps are closing,” is McDonnell’s assessment. “Tipperary had a great run, even Galway last year were very good in Connacht. We beat Tipperary this year, we felt we were on their level. We want to push on, to get a few scalps like they did with a few good results.”
Mayo, though, don’t want to suffer another reversal in Castlebar. Captain Cillian O’Connor acknowledges that Mayo are especially eager to make an impact on home turf. “The motivation probably has to come from ourselves and what’s at stake,” O’Connor says.
“It’s not completely reliant on the opposition; we have to say we are motivated to get our best performance possible no matter who we are playing.
“It’s the fact of what’s at stake – its Championship football in the height of summer in Castlebar, I really wouldn’t have any problem getting motivated no matter what team it was.
“Sligo, I’ve played them plenty of times over the last few years. I’ve played against them at schools and colleges level and there have always been good encounters against them, but the big motivation is us and what’s at stake.”
A Connacht Semi-Final on June 11 against Galway awaits the winners. That is a significant incentive.
MAYO: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan; Seamus O'Shea, Tom Parsons; Fergal Boland, Diarmuid O'Connor, Conor O'Shea; Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O'Connor, Andy Moran.
SLIGO: Aidan Devaney; Ross Donavan, Charlie Harrison, Eoin McHugh; Keelan Cawley, Brendan Egan, John Kelly; Paddy O'Connor, Adrian McIntyre; Neil Ewing, Mark Breheny, Kyle Cawley; Stephen Coen, Pat Hughes, Adrian Marren.