Mayo motor into league final

GAA: National Football League

Holding them off: Aidan O'Shea in action against Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton, right, and Caolan McGonagle of Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

Holding them off: Aidan O'Shea in action against Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton, right, and Caolan McGonagle of Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

The games will continue to come thick and fast for Mayo over the next number of weeks.

Starting off with the visit of Monaghan to Hastings Insurance MacHale Park on Sunday in the final round robin game of the league; then a trip to Croke Park the following weekend for a league final and then it's time for the big show when the championship throws-in and Roscommon arrive in the quarter-finals of the Connacht Senior Football Championship.

The stakes couldn't be more different for the two sides facing off in Castlebar on Sunda., Mayo are assured of a spot in the final of the competition, while Monaghan are arriving looking to once again summon the spirit of Harry Houdini as they need a win and results elsewhere to go their way if they are going to be a Division One team again next year.

Things are moving along very nicely for Kevin McStay and his side at the moment, they look to be enjoying themselves playing a new brand of football and vitally picking up results along the way. They are unbeaten so far this season in eight games across the FBD League and National Football League, but the real show is only about to get started come Easter Sunday, when the Rossies' roll into town.

Mayo look to have great strength and depth at the moment, even with the absence of both Cillian O'Connor and Enda Hession from the 26-man squad last Sunday, having supporters wondering about their fitness as a crucial juncture of the season comes into view. Colm Reape looks to be the man who has dibs on the goalkeeper shirt, starting five of the six league games so far this year and has looked composed and calm in the role. In front of him David McBrien looks to be finding his feet at full back and Jack Coyne and Sam Callinan alongside him were more than solid against Donegal last weekend. Padraig O'Hora made a welcome return to action off the bench against Donegal and will be looking to see some proper game time against the Farney county. In the half back line, Paddy Durcan looks to be back to his best and was all action in Ballybofey, while Conor Loftus is continuing to learn and improve in this line, while Stephen Coen continues to be the model of consistency, doing the dutiful and whatever is asked of him.

In the middle of the park, the midfield and half-forward line look to be coming together quite well as a squadron. Mattie Ruane looks to have re-found his form over recent weeks, while Diarmuid O'Connor who made his 100th appearance for the county against Donegal continues to be the heart-beat of the team, covering acres of ground. Popping up in defence and attack with regularity. In the half forward line, both Jack Carney (who looks to be getting better and better with each outing ) and Jordan Flynn bring serious mobility and fielding ability to the line and are as capable of dropping into fill the midfield hole when needed as popping up with scores closer to goal, while Fionn McDonagh also brings plenty of athleticism and energy to the line and like Carney and Flynn can swap in out from the half-forward line with ease.

In the full forward line, Aidan O'Shea looks like a man reborn this year. He is staying inside and causing defences serious problems, winning ball and taking scores when chances come his way. Having O'Shea posted in there causes defences to either take the risk of leaving him one-on-one with a defender of drop an extra man back in front of him and free up space for the rest of the Mayo attack. His hard work in chasing down and closing down opposition players on the ball is another string to Mayo's bow and he gave Shaun Patton a worried time last weekend.

Ryan O'Donoghue continues to be a threat to any team. His all action style and faith in his ability to get the better of his man and take scores even under pressure is a great asset to Mayo. O'Donoghue took his goal superbly last weekend and is always a serious threat to any defence. Who will be the third man alongside O'Shea and O'Donoghue come championship time, will be an interesting call. James Carr has shown flashes of his ability in the league, Cillian O'Connor looked to be flying against Roscommon when he got the start for that game and Tommy Conroy looks to be chomping at the bit to get back into the thick of the action. His power and pace was on full display last weekend when he broke right through the heart of the Donegal defence and had a goal chance well saved by Patton and when the pitches firm up even more over the next few weeks, he'll be even more potent in attack.

It's not a bad position at all for Kevin McStay to find himself in and you've also got the experience of the likes of Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty along with the youthful exuberance of Conor McStay, Bob Touhy and Paul Towey who looked determined to try and impress in his short cameo last weekend and scored a fine point all knocking hard at the door for consideration.

Squad depth is something that is going to be tested over the next few weeks and this Sunday, plenty of those who who haven't had as much game time as they would have hoped, will be hoping to show their stuff ahead of what the second half of the season. Monaghan will be hoping too that Mayo will not be at full strength as they battle for their Division One lives.


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