Maughan: Mayo need good draws to remain on All-Ireland trail
They expected to be preparing as hot favourites for the Connacht final but Mayo are instead qualifier-bound, beginning against Derry on Saturday.
Last year's All-Ireland runners-up need to win six games to take the title, and while they came very close in a similar situation last season, it's likely to be even more demanding this time.
John Maughan, who managed Mayo in two separate stints, has doubts over whether his home county can reproduce the momentum which took them all the way from Round 2 of the qualifiers to an All-Ireland final replay last year.
"Obviously, we're hoping that they can but it's a big ask. They needed to be going through the front door this year - instead they have to start all over again. If they had beaten Galway - and they had the chances - it would have given them real impetus but they didn't and now it's a different scene," he said.
The extent of the challenge is underlined by the fact that no county has reached successive All-Ireland finals after starting in Round 2 of the qualifiers. However, Mayo's prospects were boosted by getting a home game in Round 2.
"Derry will be tough. There's a lot of talk about various Mayo lads being injured and they will be without Keith Higgins (suspended), so this is a really big test," added Maughan.
"Still, they got a break with the game being in Castlebar but if they get past that you'd have to say they will still need a lot more luck in the Monday morning draws."
A win over Derry would see them playing Donegal or Longford, Laois or Clare, Meath or Sligo in the next round.
"The qualifiers draws were good to Mayo last year and once they got to Croke Park for the quarter-finals, the energy was back. We're hoping that will happen again but doing it for a second year will be very hard. " said Maughan.
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