Stephen Coen and his Mayo teammates before the Allianz Football League Division 1 match between Donegal and Mayo at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey. There is a vast amount of options at Kevin McStay’s disposal this season, all the more important given the tight schedule. PHOTO: SPORTSFILE

Mayo the best right now as they book league final place


YES, it is March. Yes, it is only the league. But is it a great time to be a Mayo fan right now? Why yes!

I did write in the column last month that while we should not get overly carried away with how Mayo have done in the league so far, you also cannot dismiss the marked improvement since Kevin McStay’s arrival as Mayo boss.

Firstly, the change of style - or variety in Mayo’s play, to be more accurate - has been very good to watch. It looked under James Horan’s final days that Mayo were a bit of a one-trick pony and once you stopped the renowned running game, Mayo’s threat became more limited.

The ‘McStay Way’ is reaping the rewards. Whether kicking long or short ball, or running from defence, Mayo can hurt you in so many different ways.

Another reason Mayo have an array of weapons to fire at the opposition is the options at McStay’s disposal. A look through Mayo’s bench against Donegal was telling, including stars like Tommy Conroy, Jason Doherty, Padraig O’Hora, Michael Plunkett and Kevin McLoughlin. Young guns such as Frank Irwin, Donnacha McHugh, Paul Towey and Bob Tuohy supplemented them further. Coupled with the fact Cillian O’Connor missed the game and will return, the squad options have arguably never been better for Mayo.

Looking at their starting 15, Jack Coyne and David McBrien continue to enhance their reputations further on a weekly basis. The midfield duo of Matthew Ruane and Diarmuid O’Connor were dominant. Jack Carney and Jordan Flynn are arguably the two form players in the country right now, while in attack, Aidan O’Shea continues to be used to devastating effect and turned in a man of the match display, and Ryan O’Donoghue took his goal brilliantly early in the second half.

O’Shea did admit in his post-match interview that Mayo were blighted by injuries last season and it played a big part. A largely injury-free squad playing with confidence, freedom and invention, which was so lacking last year compared to this year, mean Mayo’s performances are night and day compared to 2022. They now have a great chance of winning the Division 1 title on Sunday week.

Before that Monaghan come to Hastings Insurance MacHale Park and the Farney men are fighting for their future in Division 1. With Mayo’s place in the final booked, it’s a chance to give the likes of Towey, McLoughlin and Conroy more minutes in the legs ahead of what is a very busy period.


SPARE a thought for clubs’ groundsman across the Mayo Football League who will have to get their pitches back in order following the opening rounds of the Mayo Super Cup and Premier Cup which were played in atrocious weather across the county.

Fortunately, the Glenhest Rovers bench were kind enough to this scribe to let him sit in their dugout as they survived a scare against Claremorris.

Goals have been a bit of a problem in the opening weeks of the season but they were flying in during the first half, and Rovers were likely disappointed not to go into the dressing room with more than three.

In atypical Glenhest fashion, their defensive solidarity was lacking as they were hanging on in the dying moments but Glenhest secured their first win of the season and it could prove a springboard for them.

Celtic Park was my next destination on Sunday afternoon as in-form Castlebar Celtic took on Ballyheane. Having already missed the first half of Donegal v Mayo, it looked like a lot of the second half was going to be viewed in the highlights - with CRCfm’s Liam Byrne also missing out on Manchester United’s FA Cup tie with Fulham – after Nathan Reilly Doyle’s 93rd minute equaliser. But Mark Cunningham’s late winner saw Celtic go through and to top it off, Mark’s brother James plays for Ballyheane and dad Jarlath was watching on. Surreal!