Saturday 17 March 2018

Hectic schedule not an issue for resilient Mayo - O'Connell

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

By Monday afternoon, Mayo footballers will have played their seventh championship game - two of which went to extra-time - of the season. It's a workload that has left supporters fearing that fatigue could be a real threat to their All-Ireland prospects.

The quarter-final replay with Roscommon will be Mayo's third game in 16 days.

Kerry, in contrast, have reached the semi-final in three games, while Dublin, Tyrone and Roscommon all played a similar number ahead of the weekend's quarter-finals.

Mayo were the first of the All-Ireland fancies to enter the race on May 21, when they beat Sligo. Tyrone came in a week later, followed by Dublin on June 3 and Kerry on June 11.

So is Mayo's busy schedule a serious hindrance now that the championship season has entered the business end?

"I don't think so. They and Stephen Rochford will be relishing it. They weren't showing any signs of tiredness last Sunday," says Martin O'Connell.

The left half-back on the Team of the Millennium is perfectly placed to offer an opinion, having been on a Meath team that played no fewer than 10 championship games in 1991, five of which were in the space of 30 days.

Having taken four games to dispose of Dublin, two to eliminate Wicklow, followed by a semi-final win over Offaly, Meath beat Laois in the Leinster final.

Two weeks later they beat Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-final, but lost the final to Down.

"We had a game week after week for a long time and we really enjoyed it," he says.

"Training was all about keeping ticking over. Players love games - the training is the hard part. If you can avoid injuries, the more games you have the better.

"After our very busy summer we had a four-week gap between the semi-final and final and we didn't play well against Down for a long time. We felt that if the game had been a week or two after the semi-final we'd have won. We'll never know, but that's how we saw it."

O'Connell admires the way Mayo have kept battling back from the disappointments of recent years, even when they were beaten in successive Connacht semi-finals by Galway.

"They are very determined. They've had a lot of bad breaks, yet their drive has remained the same," says O'Connell.

"Even last Sunday when Roscommon hit them with two early goals they found a way back. Playing games every week won't bother them."

Will they win the All-Ireland?

"I've said all along, it's Dublin's title to lose. Kerry and Tyrone are their biggest challengers. I'd see them as being a bit ahead of Mayo," he adds.

Irish Independent

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