4 March 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Monaghan face yet another test of their credentials in the Allianz National Football League when they welcome Mayo to Clones on Sunday. by COLM SHALVEY

A one-point defeat against Dublin last Saturday was far from anything to set alarm bells off in the Monaghan camp, but given the unpredictable nature of the results in the division so far – best summed up by Roscommon’s amazing destruction of Cork – nothing is guaranteed. Monaghan put defeats in rounds two and three behind them in 2015 to go on a three-game winning run and qualify for the semi-finals and as things stand, they are one of a number of teams who could be in the shake-up for the top four but who also need to pick up points to avoid having to look over their shoulder at the relegation zone.

The second of those back-to-back losses 12 months ago was on an afternoon to forget against a Mayo side who make the journey this weekend very much determined to pick up their first points of the current campaign. Mayo rattled in three goals in the last 20 minutes of a fiery clash in Castlebar last year, by which stage Monaghan had been reduced to 13 men. Mayo would go on to just miss out on the knock-out stages on the final round of last year’s NFL, before going on to win a fifth consecutive Connacht title and falling short against Dublin after a replay in the All-Ireland semi-finals. That wasn’t enough to earn managerial duo Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes a second year in charge after player pressure saw them effectively forced to step in over the winter.

It has been a bumpy transition to date for new Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, who has seen somewhat experimental teams fail to get off the mark against Cork, Dublin or Donegal. Rochford, who managed Galway club Corofin to an All-Ireland SFC title last year, was only appointed to the Mayo hot seat at the end of November and he has had to do without some seasoned campaigners in the early stages of the year. The Crossmolina native has been given some leeway for those reasons up to now, but when summer comes, nothing less than a first Sam Maguire Cup since 1951 will satisfy Mayo, who were beaten by the eventual winners…


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