Game day – knockout campaign starts here

Hot on the heels of this year’s shortened National League campaign we’re now pitched straight into the Championship. Today the first shots of the summer season are set to be fired and our lads are in Connacht SFC action this afternoon against Sligo at Markievicz Park (throw-in 4.30pm).

There’s an element of back to the future in this year’s Championship. Like last year the straight knockout format is necessitated due to time pressures arising from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic but this year at least the matches are being played in high summer.

A Connacht Championship played in June and July, in which one false step sees you idle for the summer, certainly has an old-time feel to it. Hopefully, though, having now seen the old format at close quarters once again, the dewy-eyed nostalgia for it will finally be put to bed once and for all.

A major downside of the knockout system is that it means several counties’ involvement in the Championship only lasts for one day. That’s the fate awaiting whoever comes out the wrong side of this afternoon’s match at Markievicz Park, a tie that must – even if it means extra-time and, if necessary, a penalty shootout – produce a winner on the day.

Let’s cut to the chase: it’s all but impossible to see anything other than a win for us today. A yawning gap exists between the two teams and while we’ll miss Cillian O’Connor badly this summer we still have plenty of talent in our ranks to prevail comfortably enough today.

That said, we still have to go out and win today. That means we need to put in a strong, committed performance and make sure that Sligo aren’t given any encouragement about pulling off a shock victory. We need to do our business today in a calm, controlled and efficient manner.

Two things are especially important for us today. First is our defensive structure, concerns about which have been mounting as the League campaign has progressed. We conceded seven goals in four matches against modest enough Division Two opposition – every one of them preventible – and we simply have to do better today.

When I was listening to the podcast the other day and Mike asked Kevin McStay what was the ideal score we’d like to limit Sligo to, a total of eleven points immediately popped into my head. That was the answer Kevin gave too and he added that we should only be conceding points, the bulk of them from frees. No goals, he cautioned. Amen to that.

The second thing we need to do in this game is show that we have an attacking strategy that can work for us in Cillian’s absence. Losing him is a huge, crippling blow but it’s our reality for 2021 and we have to plan accordingly.

While it’d be asking asking a bit to expect to see a fully-formed alternative attacking approach firing on all cylinders today, it would be good to see the broad shape of what we’re aiming to do. As well as a coherent approach to free-taking in the master’s absence.

Providing we get those two things right then I think we should have a fairly productive day today. Assuming all goes well in this one we should then be able to hone our approach against Leitrim before facing either Galway or Roscommon in the Connacht final in a month’s time.

But let’s not be getting ahead of ourselves. Today is a knockout Championship tie so we need to stay focused on what we need to do today, even if in doing so we’re making plans for likely bigger challenges to come. If the bulk of our preparation for this game is geared towards the former – and I think it will be – then we should be okay this afternoon.

The best of luck to James and his team as we set out on another Championship campaign. And good luck too to the hurlers who get their Rackard Cup campaign underway against Donegal this afternoon.

Two Mayo wins would be nice today, here’s hoping that’s what’s in store for the county later on. Let’s get to work. Up Mayo.

70 thoughts on “Game day – knockout campaign starts here

  1. Nice statement of intent there WJ and here’s to a fruitful Mayo SFC year…..Might look at NOW TV to access a Sky ‘day pass’ for match today….thanks to the lads who mentioned that option.I hadnt known about it.

  2. Darragh O Se has been making the point that if heads are not right, bang. He cites Kerry, Donegal, Cork, from 2020.

    The team will be complacent. Horan will talk the talk, but friends, neighbours, Sligo people (!), will all tell them how easy it will be.

    And Sligo? They have been poor, but the league means nothing today. McEntee will say, there are goals to be got against Mayo. And, he’ll say, don’t worry if you fall behind, Mayo can’t sustain 70 minutes of total football. Keep plugging away, and you’ll find the gaps. Remember 2010! Look at Tipp last year. And so on.

    So, I shall be watching on my new ‘upfront pass’ on NOW TV. With trepidation.

  3. Will be interesting to see how we look to manage a season without Cillian. We’re going to need to address a few gaps here – frees, setting the press at the front and just overall leadership. It’s not going to be easy but it will ask more of some players. Could really be the making of some of them.

  4. Best wishes to James Horan and his team today. Sligo can be sticky at the best of times. A one point win get us to the next stage.

  5. It’s on Sky Sports Arena, Ceideboy. It’s pay-TV, either as a Sky subscriber or via a day/month pass with Now TV. Radio commentary will also be available on Midwest.

  6. Considered the Sky day pass option but seeing as the weather is good I’ll get some gardening done instead and listen to the commentary on MWR. Can’t see it being a very competitive game and Kerry v Clare probably none better.Best of luck to our footballers and hurlers today.

  7. Hopefully Sligo will put it up to us for a while but we will win by 8 plus points i expect . The things to look for are a reliable accurate free takers and hopefully a clean sheet to give some confidence to defense. The connacht final will be decided by tight margins so there is 2 games to get free takers eyes in…
    Mhaigh Eo abu

  8. Very interesting podcast with Martin and Kevin. I have to agree with Kevin on 1996 campaign. After 45 years waiting we finally arrived as contenders on the big stage. We have been to the fore up to 2011 and contenders ever since. I believe you needed the experience of following Mayo through the fifties to appreciate the last decade fully.

  9. It’s the bloody predictive text WJ! I change it back, and when I send a text or an email or post here, there it it is back to its nonsensical self, having defied me again.

  10. JH has come in for a lot of criticism on the blog recently, some of it justified, but credit what he has achieved in the last 2 years or so has to be given. Only 4 of our great 17 AI final team is available for selection today, Leeroy, Paddy, Kevin Mac and Aido. The Dubs have still 10 or so of their AI winning team still available. So to lose so many great players to retirement and injury and still have a decent team selected today is a fine achievement on the management part. A clean sheet and the youngsters making a big impression will do just fine today. Maigheo Abu!!!

  11. Wishing our footballers and hurlers the best of luck today. The concern about our footballers defence is understandable but its clear that Horan encourages the team to play total football when up against weaker opposition and tightens things up when playing stronger teams. Last year we conceded 2/3 goals against Meath/Tipp but in 6 matches against the top 4 teams we kept them either scoreless or limited them to 1 goal. In the AI final the first goal was a freak, never happened before, probably never happen again and the second was a glaring example of ball-watching. I think Horan sees 2022 as the year he can have a serious attempt at winning Sam. I’d say we’ll have another high scoring game today with Mayo winning by 10+.

  12. I’d like to see Aido around the middle of the field lording it around and being a conductor controlling the pace and tempo of ball onto the forwards . Will be very interesting to see how we look up front today . Kevin Mc might have a big say in the game also .

  13. I’m expecting us to be very disjointed today. Our 2 settled lines were midfield and ff line, so with cillian and diarmuid out we’re now plugging holes in all lines. It’s just natural transition really, so you just don’t know what you’re going to get when players are not used to playing with each other and if we don’t know if some players are actually good enough. Maybe not good enough, as they’re all good players, but have they consistency. Only game time can show that.
    Still expecting a sizeable win but won’t be surprised if this blog is on fire after a not so perfect performance.

  14. Best of luck to both footballers.& hurlers today. Its not the same with not being in the grounds! A very good article by Jim McGuinness on the loss of Cillian.

  15. I’d say we will stick Aiden full forward as he will have the experience and know how to organise the attack and plus last time he played there he caused Sligo havok. Second half then have him out the middle to see how our forwards do with no experienced head up there. Im going for 3-20 to 1-10. Can’t remember the last time we kept a team under 10 points in a game. No matter how well we play we always cough up a goal chance or two.

  16. Anyone else struggling to get hyped for this, usually I’m all fired up for championship weeks in advance but Im struggling to get excited for this one,

    Perhaps it’s because I’m swept up in euros fever at the moment or perhaps it’s just because I think we will annihilate them.

    There’s no peril there. It’s a very green sligo team who are having their 1st championship game in 2 years, and failed to get out of div 4 again.
    Ditto for the Leitrim game, will be another hammering that one so won’t read anything into either game.

    One thing worth watching is who picks up niall murphy, he is a cracking player, old fashioned full forward type that we struggle with so interesting to see who tags him.

    Our whole season will be measured by the connacht final.
    Not much to get excited about in the other provinces either donegal will pump down and kerry should take care of Clare comfortably at home

    Anyways, best of luck to all especially the newbies

  17. Kevin Mc will be instrumental today. His composure and experience will be vital for the young fowards, we forget too he is still one of the quickest players on the team and has no bother taking on men and beating them. Once again hope we get out of here injury free and a W in the bag.

  18. Ahead of the game today I just want to remind everyone posting comments here to keep what you have to say about players and management within the realm of reason.

    I’m a bit concerned about a few recent examples where very loose, lazy criticisms of named players were posted and, bearing in mind how exercised people can get during and after a game, I don’t want to see that bubbling up again here later on today.

    To be clear, comments criticising performances by individual players today are allowed, providing they’re backed up with a supporting rationale, which must include specific examples in today’s game. Generalised critiques such as “he’s not county standard” and the like are not allowed and will not be tolerated.

    Likewise, James Horan has come in for a fair bit of stick here of late. While much of this has been fair (albeit, I feel, a tad harsh in light of all he’s achieved for us as manager) some of it has sailed close enough to the edge. Again, James isn’t immune to criticism here but if you do plan to post something critical then make sure it’s grounded in facts.

    If you’re in any way unsure about what’s acceptable and what’s not in posting comments, then please take the time to read the house rules, which are here.

    Enjoy the game, all. Here’s hoping for a good performance and the right result.

  19. Well said WJ. The rules are very clear. Remember these players are amateurs and giving 100% to the Mayo cause. Cannot understand why JH is been criticised on this page. Surely one of our most successful managers ever?

    It’s a pity that we don’t have more fans attending the match today. Fully vaccinated people should be allowed to attend. Outdoor events risk is vanishingly low! No reason why we have not 1-2 thousand or more fans attend this game today. Look at the Euros!
    Go neiri le foireann Mhuigheo inniu- peil agus iomhanaiocht
    Mhuigheo abu!

  20. Subs list as per the programme:

    16. Rory Byrne
    17. Colm Boyle
    18. Padraig O’Hora
    19. Rory Brickenden
    20. Stephen Coen
    21. Conor O’Shea
    22. Jordan Flynn
    23. Fionn McDonagh
    24. Paul Towey
    25. Fergal Boland
    26. James Carr

  21. I agree Willie Joe, very few county managers are good at making match winning changes. Add to this our weak bench over the years. Liam ó Neil was the first manager to put some steel into our team. JOHN Maughan brought us very close.Mickey Moran was treated very badly after 2006.A lot of intercounty managers never listen to their coaches and selectors. We are all good saying what switches should have been done after the game, the trick is to do it in real time in the heat of battle. Experienced teams will fake an injury or cause a minor mallee to allow assessment and change. Who would be a manager


  22. Hard to believe that with what became the Mayo modus operandi (the long and winding road) of the second half of the last decade… Mayo went out of the championship on Irish Derby day 3 years, almost to the day at Newbridge or Nowhere.. Today it’s the opposite, we feature in the very first championship game of 2021.. Like Kildare, Sligo also play in White, But I can’t or can I, see history repeating itself somehow, but strange things happen in history… Suncream, Sandals, Water, T-shirts and Shorts were the order of the day for both Mayo and Lily-white fans for Newbridge or Nowhere, the more wordy wise of Mayo fans got free sandwiches with Brady family ham. I missed out on the sandwiches and was starving by the time I got back to Mayo..The guy who done the Brady family ham TV advertisement, might have found his way to Ballyhaunis, but is now a Hollywood Star… might never have happened but for the bus trip to Ballyhaunis.. Stephen Rochford is now with Donegal… Today it all begins again, who can tell where this long and winding road will lead?

  23. Nice article by Jim McGuiness on Cillian and how he thinks we will do without him.
    In the Irish times.

  24. Padraig OHora back in the frame. Excellent!
    Don’t be shocked if he starts and Oisin or Lee to move to middle third….

  25. Is Hession U20 If so it’s a bit of a surprise playing him as he will be unable to line out for U20 team while Mayo still in senior championship The Same is true of Towey if he is also U20 Would be a big blow to our U20 chances if that’s the case especially on a day where you would hope Mayo would have enough to win without them

  26. The Jim mcguinness article in the Irish Times is a good read, gist of is that he feels mayo can compensate for the loss of cillian due to their running game

    I must say, its always notable in any mcguinness articles how he seems to hold mayo in very high regard and tends to lavish praise on them, if I didn’t know any better I’d swear he has designs on going for the mayo job whenever it comes up in future

  27. Supermac, it is true that Niall Murphy is a very tidy player, does not need much space to pop over a point and should provide a good test for Oisin. He has played midfield but not sure if he will track Oisin up the field. Mayo by 10 plus

  28. The Mayo job should logically be the Holy Grail for any ambitious manager. Whoever eventually wins it with Mayo will instantaneously achieve legendary status.

  29. Is anyone else having problems with GAAGO I purchased the €25 season pass but can’t seem to access such high calibre games as Waterford v Limerick football today without parting with €7.99. Stretch even for me?

  30. Today is the day for our young lads to come of age. Playing against a Sligo Team in their own back yard wlll be a Test. No doubt Mc Entee will have the Black and White Ready Today. He knows enough about Mayo. We can’t become complacent, Everyone must play out of their skin. Could Oisin Mullin move to Midfield? Could Aido move to Full Forward. What has JH up his sleeve. Aidan at Full Forward will cause Sligo problems. I hope our younger lads take their chances Today. The best of luck to Enda and Darren, Michael and Bryan Walsh. Let’s keep the Defence tight, No SOFT GOALS Today. The Runners will cause havoc Oisin, Paddy and Leroy as I expect they will take scores.
    Let’s do it for Cillian. Let’s do it for Mayo.
    Mhuigheo Abu.

  31. The injury has done wonders for Cillians reputation and it is nice to see him get the national praise he deserves.

  32. El Tod, I had similar issues with gaa go. I mailed them and will copy the mail below. Mine is working now

    “Thank you for contacting GAAGO Support

    Sorry to hear of the issue you are encountering.
    This could be due to one of two reasons.

    1. You may need to uninstall your app and download and install the latest version and this will resolve the issue or

    2. If you are accessing our website you may be encountering a browser issue, I would recommend you use google chrome browser when logging into our service.”

  33. The hurlers have just pulled off a sensational comeback win over Donegal. Behind all day, a late goal from Keith Higgins (1-3 for him today) helped the lads to a 2-14 to 0-17 win.

  34. A brilliant article by Jim McGuinness,very true I think that we will step up to the plate,but this game brings back memories from long ago,when there of us travelled to Sligo,the Henerys were playing for Sligo,we had a young star from I think Balla ,it was one though game,my two friends are no longer with us taken far too early,but we had some great days following Mayo,some bad defeats but many great memories,may my two friends look down today,and many more great supporters who travelled the country following Mayo,it shows old I am when I am looking back so far

  35. Ah lads this is a pure farce of a game. Like watching a senior team play an u14 team

    Our lads look to be in great shape though

  36. Corick+Bridge- to be fair, this is a poor Sligo team, or rather a very young team with very limited experience, I live in Sligo and there was no confidence that they would put it up to us this year.

  37. If I was jh I would whip off key players at halftime, nothing whatsoever to be gained by leaving kev, AOS, Durcan, keegan etc out there.
    Its not like scoring difference matters

  38. Great stuff
    Loftus struggling a bit at midfield…
    Darren Mchale superb. Now do the same for the next few matches.
    Need to see a lot more from Ryan ODonoghue from play

  39. 8 points conceded? All from play I think. Hmmm… they look well on track to surpass the 11 point mark!

    This must be the worst Sligo team in decades. It’s sad to see.

  40. Nice to see running game and accurate scoring regardless of strength of opposition……I got game on NOW TV Skty Arena tenner deal………Does anybody know is that that or do I have to go back and “unsubscribe” after the match?

  41. I think that’s very harsh on the Sligo lads. The game has moved on and they – like many counties – have been completely left behind.

    They kicked some super long-range scores there.

  42. Mayo goalie with jersey back to front. I know Sligo colour is black but could our kit man not come up with a better solution. It’s not junior C !!!! ?

  43. Darren mchale putting up his hand big time today, thats what you want to see in these type of games, lads grabbing their chance

  44. Mickiy,a bit tounge in cheek,I was privileged to see the great Michael Kearns and his brother James, Barnes Murphy,and the team though Hendry brothers,,I have followed Mayo since the mid sixties,I was in Crime Park in eighty one,we travelled to to Tuam one year with a fair chance of beating Galway,and I who has never been short of speech could not speak until I had a couple of pints in Castlebar, so hopefully Sligo will build from hear and cause teams problems for teams in the future,some of my comments are tounge in cheek to some posters who criticise our management and players

  45. Pretty routine. Now for four more games to win out. Easy to say when you say it quick.

  46. Nothing more than a training match for Mayo. It could easily have been more but it’s understandable that intensity would fall off in the second half.
    Sligo are not in a great place. The standard of club football in the county is poor, and the club which has won the last 5 county titles had one man on the team today, who was taken off before halftime. It’s hard to understand what’s going on there.
    They need to stick with McEntee for a few years to try to develop this young group instead of chopping and changing managers so often.
    From a Mayo point of view I wouldn’t spend much time analysing this game. Won by 20, beat what was put in front of them without moving out of 3rd gear, move on.

  47. Congrats to Mayo on a convincing win today, I know Sligo were operating at a different level but Mayo had the right attitude which is important regardless of the oppositions standard. I feel that Mayo need a hard game to get them to where they need to be for the provincial title, Galway will have a lot of hurt and I feel they will prove to be a big test for ye should both teams stars align and give us the final we all want.

    Cillian has been most unfortunate with serious injuries at critical times in his career, I hope he makes a speedy recovery as he is an excellent player, he has a streak in him that is celebrated and ignored only in Mayo but I’d love if a few more Kerry players had it in them as an edge is an important ingredient at this level. I pray that no team suffers any more serious injuries going forward,

  48. Job done
    That Sligo team would not get out of the group stages in the Mayo championship

  49. Job done no injuries no goals conceded though Sligo were extremely poor. George Lee would find it hard to find something downbeat about this performance apart of course from Hennelly’s wardrobe malfunction which probably wasn’t his fault.

  50. It’s good to get the win and with the added bonus of no goals conceded. It’s also hard to know where we stand given the place Sligo football is in right now but the lads worked well as a unit today with some of the younger lads putting their hand up. Tougher games ahead though…
    Does anyone know if Peter Laffey who played for Sligo today and whose grandfather was on the 1936 All Ireland winning side hails from Foxford?

  51. No sentiment indeed. Its not about one player. Remember Kevin Cassidy unceremoniously jettisoned from Donegal, and we all know what happened thereafter. Some cautious optimism that lads are putting their hands up. At this point, that’s all we can ask for. Well done all.

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