Friday 6 December 2019

Padden: Mayo to survive before injuries hurt

SFC qualifier rd 3 - Mayo v Armagh, Castlebar, Today (7pm, Sky)

Billy Joe Padden
Billy Joe Padden

Mayo can't afford to look beyond Armagh tonight and nor will they, reckons Billy Joe Padden, who holds the surely unique distinction of having played for both counties.

But if they do survive their latest qualifier test against a gifted Armagh attack, he fears they'll be caught ultimately.

Potentially summer-ending injuries to Matthew Ruane and now skipper Diarmuid O'Connor make it "more difficult" for Mayo to keep ahead of the posse, week after week.

Losing two players of similar qualities in the same sector is a real double whammy. "They give you athleticism and the ability to go forward and get a score. So, really, it does impact on what Mayo will do - if they do anything - over the next couple of weeks," Padden surmises.

"They can still win a one-off game, probably against anyone, maybe bar Dublin.

"But you just get the feeling there'll come a time when they would have needed that strength in depth ... and they don't have it at the minute, because Séamie O'Shea doesn't look like he's going to be fit."

Meanwhile, Donie Vaughan has gone from the terraces in Newry to No 8 in the Castlebar cockpit - one of four team changes as Horan juggles again, even after last week's redemptive win over Down.

Cillian O'Connor, over six months after knee surgery, didn't make last week's squad.

"We don't know what sort of shape Donal Vaughan is in really. And then Cillian has played no football. He'll play at the weekend - he'll play a significant amount of time," Padden predicted. "But it's going to be hard to rely on him when he's played so little."

Son of the iconic Willie Joe, Padden's Mayo career included a 2006 All-Ireland final start before ending his county days with Armagh, having joined Carrickcruppen.

The Sky pundit is backing his native county tonight. "I still think Mayo have the tools to win - a very, very close game, and I would not be one bit surprised if Armagh were to turn them over," he warns.

"The battleground will be that Mayo defence. And if Mayo can hold those talented Armagh forwards, they will be able to get enough possession and score enough."

But beyond that?

"If they make the Super 8s, I think they'll have played five weeks in a row ... that's going to be a very difficult task for Mayo to basically win all those games, relying on the same 15, 16, 17 players."

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