Manager James Horan has said the direct route to Croke Park is the preferred option as the sides meet in a repeat of the final of 1997 when Mayo last retained the title scraping past Sligo by a single point (0-11 to 1-7).
Horan was a member of that team managed by John Maughan, having won the first of his two All-Star awards the previous year
Now, the Ballintubber man, who is facing into his second championship as manager, is having to look at things from a difference perspective and the constant reminders that when these two sides last met, Mayo suffered a bad defeat, is something that just won’t go away.
“I don’t know what happened two years ago but I do know we have looked at it and discussed it.
“A lot of the Mayo and Sligo players from that day will be meeting again on Sunday so obviously it is relevant to our preparations,” he said.
However, always the pragmatist, Horan sees Sligo as a much stiffer challenge than many people might anticipate but he will not be bringing his team down a similar blind alley, which saw them ambushed by Sligo in Markievicz Park two years ago.
There is, of course, the other worrying fact. Mayo have not put back-to-back Connaught titles together now for 15 years and on more than one occasion Sligo have been the fly in Mayo’s championship ointment.
Ironically, the double was last achieved in 1997 when Mayo beat Sligo in Hyde Park.
The other dilemma for the Mayo manager is putting that landslide win over Leitrim in this year’s semi-final into perspective and evaluating the significance of Sligo’s shock win over Galway.
Those are the burdens left to the manager but Horan is confident the team will deliver a second title under his watch.
He does not accept the Leitrim game was a total waste of time.
In fact, it showed many positive for Mayo.
“We put up big score and we scored goals. We were well beaten in the first 20 minutes but what impressed me was the team’s willingness to keep pushing to the end and keep driving on.
”I think we scored 1-4 in the last few minutes and we showed a killer instinct, which may not have been there in some of our games,” he said.
The other plus for Horan is the keen competition for places going into Sunday’s final.
“The competition is keen all over - at the back, in midfield and in the attack.
Aiden O’Shea is making steady progress and we have no injuries, so we are in very strong position.
“Sligo were impressive against Galway. They had a game plan which didn’t work in the first half but they stuck to it and it paid off in the end.
“If you are off guard Sligo will punish you and they have leaders on the team in Charlie Harrison and Tony Taylor, both of whom impressed me.
“The full forward line has already established itself as the strongest unit on the team and we will have to be prepared well to hold them but they are only as good as they ball they get and they got good early ball against Galway, “ he said.
Pushed on naming his team, he said he did not see many, if any, changes from the side that beat Leitrim.
“We scored 4-20 and players were pushing hard and most of them played well but there are a few areas to look at while the fitness levels of some players will have to be evaluated but I didn’t anticipate many changes,” he said.
Which would suggest Richie Feeney may be on the bench again from the start if Colm Boyle gets the nod, while the full-back line of Kevin Keane, Ger Cafferkey and Keith Higgins can be pencilled in, as can Donal Vaughan and Lee Keegan on the half-back line.
Barry Moran will be back at midfield on the back of his display the last day but it is not clear who he will be partnering.
Danny Geraghty was the surprise choice against Leitrim and the Ballintubber lad may be retained for his efforts but the performance of Seamus O’Shea for his club in the championship last week must move him closer to a starting place.
It is highly unlikely Aiden O’Shea will be on the starting 15 as he struggles to get match fit despite lining out for his club.
Changes up front unlikely given a return of 4-20, with the half-forward line reading Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O’Connor and Alan Dillon and the full forward lining out as Alan Freeman, Andy Moran and Jason Doherty, although the Burrishoole man could come under pressure to hold his place given the impact made by Conor Mortimer, Enda Varley and Michael Conroy.
The class of 2010 has been strengthened considerably and the minds seem a lot more focussed now. The experience of division one football will also stand to Mayo despite Sligo’s advances under a good manager in Kevin Walsh, who, as former Galway player, will know a thing or two about playing Mayo teams.
Overall, Mayo’s quality in the key areas should stand them in good stead and I expect them to be at least four points better than Sligo when the final whistle is blown.