There is no time for Mayo to dwell over their failure to remain in Division 1. They return to action just a week after the defeat to Tyrone and this time there is even more on the line. The 2020 Football Championship has been a long time coming but it’s here now and the knock-out format means no time for settling in. Leitrim vs Mayo takes place in Carrick-on-Shannon on Sunday.
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Leitrim suffered relegation themselves in the League. They had a chance of survival if they beat Tipperary in the final round. However, a two-point loss sealed their fate. Previously, they had to concede the game against Down. This was a result of players waiting on Covid-19 test results and not being able to field a team.
It has been twenty years since Leitrim last made it to a Connacht final. This year, they again drew the short straw as even an upset against Mayo would pit them against Roscommon in the semi-final with Galway on the other side of the draw. The return to action hasn’t exactly given Leitrim fans reason to be hopeful about this game. However, with no qualifiers to fall back on, they may relish the chance to take on some of the best in the game and see how they fare.
Can Mayo master Connacht again?
Mayo have not won a Connacht Championship since 2015 (their fifth in a row). This is surprising considering they made it to the 2016 and ’17 finals and 2019 semi-final. Indeed, it has been Connacht that has proven the hardest for Mayo to conquer in recent years.
When Mayo trounced Galway in the first game back recently, the familiar echoes of ‘Mayo are back’ echoed around the west. But, in typical Mayo fashion, they undid their hard work at home a week later to end their 23-year spell in Division 1.
This could prove to be the best thing to happen to James Horan’s side. In recent seasons, after losing in Connacht, Mayo progressively got stronger during the qualifiers. But, a loss this year does not yield a second chance. Therefore, with defeat already on their backs, Mayo could fall into the familiar pattern of finding form when they are on their last life.
The final two League games made for interesting reading for Mayo fans. The team selections yielded some very exciting prospects (e.g Tommy Conroy, Mark Moran, Eoghan McLoughlin, Oisin Mullin) but it was perhaps Aidan O’Shea’s deployment at full-forward that most caught the eye.
O’Shea was the biggest anarchist against Galway and even if he did not repeat the trick against Tyrone, the tactic is a good option to have. In fact, Leitrim could be the best place to experiment with such a move again.
The likes of O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor have been around for longer than it seems now. Likewise, the Keegans, Vaughans, and Parsons are aging faster than Mayo fans would want. As a result, this could be the greatest chance for Mayo to launch an All-Ireland quest again. It will only require five wins in a row to go all the way (Mayo played 10 games in the 2017 campaign). The new injection of youth could complement the experienced heads nicely.
LAST FIVE CHAMPIONSHIP CLASHES
2012: Mayo 4-20 Leitrim 0-10 (Connacht semi-final)
2006: Mayo 1-10 Leitrim 1-9 Connacht semi-final)
1997: Mayo 0-18 Leitrim 0-11 (Connacht semi-final)
1994: Leitrim 0-12 Mayo 2-4 (Connacht final)
1988: Mayo 1-13 Leitrim 0-4 (Connacht quarter-final)
Things to note
(1) Other than against London and New York, Leitrim haven’t won a Connacht championship games since beating Sligo in the 2011 quarter-final in 2011.
(2) Mayo have lost to Leitrim only three times in the Connacht championship (1994-1976-1959).
(3) Mayo were relegated from Division 1 last weekend after winning two, drawing one and losing four of their seven games.
(4) Leitrim were relegated from Division 3 after winning one, drawing and losing four games. They also conceded a walkover against Down.
(5) Leitrim have scored only one goal against Mayo in their last six championship meetings and haven’t scored two goals against the green-and-red since 1976.
(6) The winners will play Roscommon in the semi-final on Sunday week.
Leitrim are as long 14/1 to cause an upset. Mayo are 1/66 and a draw is 33/1.
The game is being shown on RTÉ News Now.
3. Donal Wrynn
4. Conor Reynolds
5. David Bruen
7.Cillian Mc Gloin
8. Mark Plunkett
9. Domnnaill Flynn
10. Conor Dolan
11. Paddy Maguire (Captain)
12. Jack Gilheaney
13. Shane Quinn
15. Keith Beirne
1. David Clarke – Ballina Stephenites
2. Oisín Mullin – Kilmaine
3. Stephen Coen – Hollymount/Carramore
4. Lee Keegan – Westport
5. Patrick Durcan – Castlebar Mitchels
6. Rory Brickenden – Westport
7. Eoghan McLaughlin – Westport
8. Matthew Ruane – Breaffy
9. Conor Loftus – Crossmolina Deel Rovers
10. Bryan Walsh – Ballintubber
11. Ryan O’Donoghue – Belmullet
12. Jordan Flynn – Crossmolina Deel Rovers
13. Tommy Conroy – The Neale
14. Aidan O’Shea – Breaffy (C)
15. Cillian O’Connor – Ballintubber
Connacht Football Championship Quarter-Final: Leitrim vs Mayo, Sunday, November 1st, 13:15 (Carrick-on-Shannon).
We begin our @ConnachtGAA campaign next Sunday against Leitrim in Carrick on Shannon at 1:15pm.
— Mayo GAA (@MayoGAA) October 27, 2020
Could Mayo’s relegation be a blessing in disguise?
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