Posted by Shane Stapleton

We look at how Mayo are continuing to dismantle the local competition and whether it will come against them later this year

2013 Mayo Roscommon

It was put to James Horan after his side’s 0-21 to 0-9 win over Roscommon that Mayo might not be steeled for the All-Ireland series because they have had it so easy in Connacht this year.

He dismissed the idea because he sees that his team is winning games and moving forward towards the All-Ireland series.

For anyone who has attended his press conferences in the past couple of years, or indeed listened to his post-match interviews, you will no doubt be familiar with him simply referring to this as game two, with game six being the All-Ireland final.

Horan doesn’t like to label things, the Connacht semi-final in this case (which you probably predicted in Win, Lose or Draw), more than it is another step along the road.

And while we would accept this point that he is not necessarily at a disadvantage winning the provincial championship with relative ease, you can’t ignore how Mayo are doing so with incremental ease.

A look at the statistics below show from being taken to extra time in his Mayo managerial debut away to London in May 2011, the winning margin has been widening noticeably.

In 2011, the won Connacht matches by an average of three points. A year later, that figure jumped to 0-12 after an annihilation of Leitrim — who face London in the other semi-final — and a narrow win over Sligo. In 2013, Galway and now Roscommon have been destroyed by 17 and 12 points respectively.

These were never contests and it’s worth acknowledging that, while the Heather County were criticised for a lack of goals in the league this year, the last team to even manage a three-pointer against them in their province was the Tribesmen on 26 June 2011.

Mayo have managed eight since that day, in two bursts of four against Leitrim and Galway, to establish an average winning margin of 9.8 points in Horan’s three seasons ruling Connacht.

London 2-10 Mayo 0-19 AET
Galway 1-6 Mayo 1-12
Roscommon 0-11 Mayo 0-13
Total: 3-27 (36) to 1-44 (47)
Avg winning margin: 3pts

Leitrim 0-10 Mayo 4-20
Sligo 0-10 Mayo 0-12
Total: 0-20 (20) to 4-32 (44)
Avg winning margin: 12pts

Galway 0-11 Mayo 4-16
Roscommon 0-9 Mayo 0-21
Total: 0-20 (20) Mayo 4-37 (49)
Avg winning margin: 14.5pts

Overall avg winning margin: 9.8pts 

Is it a disadvantage though, having such a weak province? Well it hasn’t stopped 74-time Munster champions Kerry going on to win 36 All-Ireland titles. Of course they’ve been pushed hard by Cork on many occasions but, for the most part, they’ve been able to win pulling up against the rest in their province.

Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford have looked very far off the pace indeed in 2013, and it remains to be seen what a Munster final against Cork, who beat Clare by nine, will do for them. Perhaps Leitrim or London will give Mayo a test.

We wouldn’t expect so because, in the grand scheme of things, Mayo looked to be at a completely different level to anyone outside the top sir or seven counties.

Their win over the Rossies was as routine as it gets, even if the pretenders took the game to Mayo in the first few minutes. They looked to control the ball and hoped that the pattern of play would follow. After 17 minutes, John Evans’ men had held two-thirds of the possession but were 0-4 to 0-2 down.

Roscommon needed to take every chance they got but Donie Smith somehow put a ball wide from the 20-metre line off the ground, when it seemed obvious for Senan Kilbride to put it over from his hands. Cathal Cregg came barrelling through the Mayo defence on 24 minutes and he could have taken out the entire opposition defence by handpassing to wing-back Conor Daly who had ghosted in behind.

Kevin Higgins ultimately scored a point to pull back the deficit to 0-7 to 0-3, but a goal might actually have given the Rossies real hope.

After the break, Roscommon tried to change it up but when Plan A wasn’t working, there wasn’t much of a Plan B. Mayo held all the ball, the margin stretched out and the game was long over before the final whistle came.

Whether that lack of competition makes a difference later in the year remains to be seen, but it may also been an issue for the other big challengers.

Draw for Round 1 of the qualifiers:
Tyrone v Offaly
Galway v Tipperary
Derry v Sligo
Westmeath v Fermanagh
Laois v Carlow
Armagh v Wicklow
Louth v Antrim
Longford v Limerick

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