Tom Parsons warming up before the FBD League semi-final match back in January between Mayo and Galway at Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar. There is a lot more at stake this weekend for both sides at opposite ends of the table. PHOTO: PIARAS Ó MÍDHEACH / SPORTSFILE

All systems go for Mayo


REGARDLESS of what will happen over the coming weeks with talk of more restrictions across Ireland, inter-county football will make its grand return this weekend.

I am sure there will be plenty of discussion over the coming days and weeks about whether these games should go ahead or not and the words from Tánaiste Leo Varadkar suggest that the All-Ireland championship will not proceed as planned should we go to Level 5 despite NPHET giving it the go-ahead. There is a lot of mixed messaging going around which is not healthy and some much needed clarity needs to be given to see where we stand, which hopefully we get as soon as possible.

But one thing I can definitely say for sure is the club championships that went ahead, as well as the numerous underage competitions that took place, brought so much joy to people in what has been a year we all want to see the back of very quickly. Sport matters to many people and if these games provides a welcome distraction and can be played in a safe manner, then its comeback should be welcomed.

For Mayo, their return doesn't get much bigger than their clash with old rivals Galway in Tuam and it is a big game for both sides.

Should Mayo lose, their proud record of never being relegated from Division One looks set to end, which would be all the more disappointing considering they won the league just last year.

The news that broke last week regarding Jason Doherty's latest serious injury was a real blow both for the Burrishoole club man and Mayo and it also looks like Brendan Harrison will play no part of Mayo's campaign going forward either. It's not an ideal situation for James Horan to lose two of his most experienced players and it will be very interesting to see who lines out this Sunday.

Conversely, Galway need to win both games if they are win Division One. Padraic Joyce's side had played some excellent football before the suspension of the league and the video that was seen online at the weekend of All-Ireland winning manager Jim McGuinness training the Tribesman has certainly set tongues wagging in terms of what part he will play in Joyce's backroom team going forward, if any.

There will be much focus on the maroon and white as a result, which might just play into Mayo's hands. They always seem to find a way when their backs are against the wall and it should come as no surprise to anyone if they come out of Pearse Stadium with the win to set up a huge clash with Tyrone at Elverys MacHale Park the following week to stay up.


ANY chance of Ireland appearing at Euro 2020 is all but done and it was a horrible way to go out.

It never should have got as far as it did and Ireland were more than good enough on the night to get through but on too many occasions, their final ball let them down and when it didn't, the chances weren't taken.

The losses of Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah before the game were a real blow, especially when no immediate explanation followed it. Only after the match did we find out why that was the case and why the FAI opted not to announce that is anyone's guess.

Yet with all that went on before the game, there were plenty of positives for Ireland. Darren Randolph had a great game in between the posts, and was very unfortunate not to save at least one or two of the penalties in the shootout. John Egan and Shane Duffy were excellent at centre-half. Duffy's block from Lukas Haraslin's goal-bound shot in the second-half was brilliant while the only thing missing from David McGoldrick terrific all-round performance was a goal.

I had a bad feeling watching the game that the longer it went on, the more you felt that Slovakia was gonna hit Ireland with a sucker punch. It did, and in the worst way possible.

But for whatever goes wrong off the pitch for the FAI, which there is sadly plenty of, at least on it you would be hopeful that Ireland's football future looks bright.

*You can read Stuart's full column every Tuesday in our print eidtion.