I know that the clouds are already spilling in over the west this morning but it’s another gloriously warm and sunny start to the day up here in the capital. The end of summer could well be approaching later on today but sure we’ll continue to enjoy the weather while it’s in it.
Once all of the action that took place over the weekend just gone has been dealt with, the media’s attention will no doubt soon start to turn towards the matches that are set to take place this coming weekend. As is now standard practice within the Mayo camp ahead of championship matches involving us, our pre-match press evening was scheduled for well in advance of the game itself and so it has already come and gone. The event took place in Breaffy last Thursday evening which means that all the pre-match quotes from James and whichever of the players were roped into media duties for the occasion that you’ll be reading about over the coming days have already been imparted to the Fourth Estate.
Colm Gannon of the Mayo Advertiser last night provided the first report on what James had to say at Breaffy and, as was the case ahead of the Galway match, the manager wasn’t going out of his way in the yerra department when discussing his team’s prospects. Instead, James opened with this bullish response to a question asked of him as to whether or not it bothered him that we were now being openly touted as potential All-Ireland champions this year:
Not at all, we’re an ambitious team, we’re looking to be as good as we possibly can and we feel that we have a lot of ability and that’s OK, we’ll take that. We’re making progress and we’re going the right way. So we’re just going to June 16 and see can we take the next step.
James did, however, caution supporters against getting carried away, making the point that it’s “daft” at this juncture to be talking about having the likes of Michael Conroy and Cillian O’Connor back in August when, in reality “we’re not in a Connacht final … never mind an All Ireland quarter-final”. As James rightly says, the only match we should be thinking about is the one we have to play next but he also reckons that this kind of chatter shouldn’t get to the players, whom he says are “smart guys that just can see through that”.
On the injury front, James confirms that Barry Moran “is close to being back” as is Jason Doherty, with Shane McHale, Michael Walsh, Evan Regan and James Burke all pushing strongly for inclusion in the team to face Roscommon. He’s less upbeat about Andy Moran, saying that the captain is “still a bit off the pace and has a bit of work to do”, though he does add that Andy is “making progress at an alarming rate”.
On Sunday’s opponents, James points to their low concession rate and reckons that “they are a hard team to score against and hard team to play against”. He also believes that the Rossies will have watched the Salthill slaughter closely and “will have a lot of plans in place as a result of that” but also he feels that we’re capable of making further progress on the performance against Galway:
The Galway game was a start it was a good kick off to our championship, but that’s all it was, was a start and you have to build on that. If you want to be successful you have to build on every single training session, every single game that you play and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be better in certain areas than we were against Galway and see where that takes us.
I can see that statement being interpreted in different ways over the coming days. One reading of it could be that James is looking to see his side inflict even greater carnage on the Rossies than that which we meted out to Galway but I’m not sure that’s what he was getting at at all. Instead, I’d prefer to see it as a call for our lads to cut out the kind of poor play witnessed in Salthill, such as those aimless long-range balls we too often pumped into no-one in particular in the full-forward line and the easy way that we conceded primary possession on a number of occasions from Hail Mary balls sent into our own full-back line. We have to improve on both areas if we’re to live up to our exalted billing this year and the time to start showing this improvement has to be next Sunday.
No word, of course, as yet from James about the team he expects to field against Roscommon. I’d expect to see fairly minimal change from Salthill and it could well be that the only alteration to that starting fifteen will be the one enforced by Cillian’s absence. There’s a fair old queue building for that jersey at this stage but I guess it’ll be Wednesday at least before we know more on that score.