Thursday 29 September 2016

McLoughlin backing Mayo to retain their top-tier status

John Fallon

Published 23/03/2016 | 02:30

Kevin McLoughlin of Mayo in Dr Hyde Park yesterday ahead of Sunday's Allianz NFL clash with Roscommon (SPORTSFILE)
Kevin McLoughlin of Mayo in Dr Hyde Park yesterday ahead of Sunday's Allianz NFL clash with Roscommon (SPORTSFILE)

It has been a difficult league campaign so far for Mayo and their status as the side with the longest tenure in Division 1 is now under serious threat.

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But the versatile and long-serving Kevin McLoughlin said they are not panicking and believe that more consistency in games will turn it around.

However, they face a difficult test on Sunday when they take on their high-flying neighbours Roscommon before winding up their campaign against a Down side who are also in serious relegation trouble.

Mayo are the only side in the top flight since the league was restructured in 1998, but it is now going to take something special from them to avoid making the drop just months after a player heave ousted joint-managers Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes.

McLoughlin, who made his debut in 2009 as a corner-back but has since become a key figure in attack, said morale in the camp is good.

"Training is going well and overall we are enjoying what we are doing," he reasoned. "I think we are on the incline at this stage. From the outside it may not look like that but we feel it is from the inside.

"We've had some good performances in patches along the way. Our last game with Kerry, we had a very strong first half. But we didn't follow up with a good second half so we know the performances are in us. They are there. It's just to make sure it happens over a full game. We know we have the ability," he said.

Sunday gives them a chance to get their season back on track against a Roscommon side who have taken the league by storm but who have not defeated Mayo since 2001.

"In one sense you could nearly see it as a championship type of game. And we've had some good games in the Hyde, we've a pretty good record as it happens.

"It's a challenge in a way. It's something we are looking forward to. We do want to go up and win this game," said the 26-year-old.

McLoughlin has not been surprised by how well Roscommon have adjusted to life in the top flight.

"Roscommon were always a decent team, it is not overnight that they have turned into a decent team. They are playing quite well at the minute, they have had some serious performances and we look forward to playing a good Roscommon team. I'm not surprised by them."

The absence of the injured Cillian O'Connor has been a big blow to Mayo during this campaign and McLoughlin reckons three-time All-Star Keith Higgins is likely to see more action up front.

Attacker

"Everyone knows how good of a footballer Keith is. You could pretty much play him in nearly any position, but if we can get him playing well as an attacker, by all means he could be a big addition to us.

"But I suppose as the year goes on the decision will have to be made whether he's a forward or a back, but at this moment I'd say he'll be kept there.

"The fact he's so fast and so good on the ball, like that alone would make you a bit wary if you had to mark him. It's tough having to mark someone that fast," said McLoughlin, a science and maths teacher at Rice College in Westport.

According to the Knockmore ace, the players are aware of the county's record of having the longest stint in the top flight, but he insists that it doesn't really come into their thoughts: "We are aware of it but does it affect us? I don't think so. I know it is a record, it is a nice record to have but there are better records in the league out there than that."

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