There's no doubt that 2021 represents something of a changing of the guard for Mayo.

Between last year’s All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin and the start of this season’s competitive football, half a dozen of James Horan’s panel decided to call time on their inter-county careers.

Keith Higgins, Chris Barrett, Seamie O’Shea, Donal Vaughan, Tom Parsons and David Clarke hung up their boots without ever getting their hands on Sam Maguire, but will be remembered for their respective contributions in an absorbing period in Mayo’s football history.

The change in personnel will allow some the opportunity to showcase their talents – Ben Doyle, Michael Plunkett and Enda Hession in defence, Bryan Walsh and Fionn McDonagh in attack – while others such as Jordan Flynn and Michael Plunkett seek to establish themselves as starters.

Mayo's Bryan Walsh in action against Westmeath

James Horan’s side have begun life in Division 2 with wins over Down and Westmeath, the latter coming with three points to spare at TEG Cusack Park yesterday. It means they've one foot in the Division 2 semi-finals and just need to reach the decider to secure an immediate return to the top flight.

Cillian O’Connor was to the fore yet again for the green and red, though all but one of his eight points came from frees against a dogged Westmeath side.

Despite the change in faces in the panel, the Ballintubber man rejects the notion that Mayo are a team in transition.

"I don’t think that’s [transition] a phrase we like to use. If you’re there, you are there on merit," he told RTÉ Sport.

"We are trying to maintain standards we set before. We’re delighted the lads got more minutes there this week."

Westmeath put in a strong performance and asked questions of us

His haul of eight points equalled his tally last week against Down and says it was all about leaving Mullingar with the points.

"Westmeath put in a strong performance and asked questions of us, so we are happy with the result."

Aside from the retirements, Mayo were without Aidan O’Shea, James Durcan, Jason Doherty and Brendan Harrison.

Team captain Paddy Durcan said that while his team "have a lot to work on", the return of the aforementioned players will be a boost to the panel.

"Those lads aren’t far away," he said. "The more fellas we get back, the more competition for places and it has a good effect all round."