By James McMahon
Hyde Park is the venue for what should be an intriguing Nestor Cup decider. Many pundits expected Galway to be battling their old rivals for provincial honours on Sunday, but Sligo’s accomplished second-half performance against the Maroon and White five weeks ago put pay to that pairing.
Mayo did what they had to do against Leitrim; a facile victory in the end, not perhaps the best preparation to face Kevin Walsh’s side, who will relish the underdog tag at the Hyde.
Questions abound as to what affect Conor Mortimer’s departure from the Mayo set-up will have on the team. Mortimer did not start against Leitrim, and when manager James Horan again left him off the XV for Sunday’s clash, the player opted to walk away.
Reports from the county state that the now Parnells club man was going well in training and in trial games, and with Mayo short some key regulars at the moment, it was felt that he could lend something positive.
Conor Mortimer, has however shown his support for the Green and Red after commenting on his Twitter account:
"Mayo football is bigger than any player always has and always will be so can people just concentrate on getting behind the team for the game on Sunday. I have even as a player always been a huge supporter and will be again this weekend. #mayogaa"
Aidan O’Shea has resumed full fitness, and is expected to play some part against the Yeatsmen. The only change from three weeks ago sees Enda Varley take over from Alan Freeman in the full-forward line.
Sligo were confident they could cause a surprise against Galway. That belief will have to be replicated if they are to win their fourth Connacht crown. Adrian Marren had the game of his life the last day, scoring 2-6, and with David Kelly and Mark Breheny alongside him in the full-forward line, they will be hoping to reap hay again.
Alan Costello at No 10 has the ability to find the range from distance, while at the back Charlie Harrison and Ross Donovan will be looking to lead the rearguard against what is a mobile Mayo attack.
Doubts still surround the Sligo midfield, and manager Kevin Walsh has opted to restore Tony Taylor to that sector. Up against him will be Barry Moran, now a seasoned veteran on the Mayo side. He will be partnered by Danny Geraghty. The battle around the middle will be key to determining the outcome.
On paper, you would have to say that Mayo possess the better quality, but Sligo’s desire to make amends for the Connacht final of disappointment of 2010 will drive them on.
Yet James Horan has brought a certain edge to his management of the Mayo side that may well carry the day in a game that has the potential to be free-flowing and high scoring.