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Barton is aware a defeat against Mayo could spell end of his Oak Leaf reign

Mayo v Derry, All-Ireland Qualifiers 2a: Castlebar, Today, 5.00pm

By Declan Bogue

When the names came out of the hat, Derry manager Damian Barton had the same reaction as most - it's do or die this weekend for the Oak Leaf County.

Mayo, beaten in the Connacht Championship for the second year in a row by Galway, will be smarting. And, just like Fermanagh discovered last year, the big decisions are likely to go their way in front of a typically huge home support in Castlebar.

"Beaten All-Ireland finalists, in Castlebar, it's probably - with respect to all the teams - the toughest draw of all on paper," reflected the Derry manager after the pairing was made.

A month ago the outlook was looking grim for Derry after an 11-point defeat by Tyrone in the Ulster Championship.

The subsequent hammering dished out by the Red Hands to Donegal, along with a restorative Derry win over Waterford and a line in the sand being drawn over players featuring for their clubs in the lead in to county matches, has equipped them with a sense of where exactly they are at.

Asked if his squad were feeling better about themselves in light of Tyrone's demolition of Donegal, he answered: "There's an emotive side to everything, and really and truly, tactically -and I am not judging Donegal -but tactically we had a couple of match-ups that were reasonably effective on the day.

"It doesn't change the result of course, but it does give us a sense of perspective."

He continued: "You can balance that by saying that Tyrone looked at their best. I think conditions may have mitigated against some of the Donegal players as well in terms of size, maybe age profile.

"It does give a sense of perspective, and really the amount of points we conceded, we let in some very easy scores and I think we just stopped at that stage, the last 10 minutes of the game against Tyrone."

Having been appointed on a two-year term by the Derry county board back in September 2015, there is a strong chance that this could be the final engagement Barton has in this role. He is being wholly realistic of that too.

His opposite number, Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, could be under a deal of pressure too. After claiming five consecutive provincial titles under James Horan, Rochford has struggled both times they have played Galway in Connacht.

Along with that, he could be without Lee Keegan and Aidan O'Shea, who are both struggling for fitness.

Barton said: "I think Mayo is a similar challenge to the Tyrone challenge. We know the type of performance that is required. Tactically we have got to get it right as well. So it gives us a good sense of focus for Saturday."

After the seven-point victory over Waterford, attention was on Mayo immediately after the draw was made - last Monday week ago - with the video of their defeat to Galway the first port of call.

"Quite obviously, video analysis is a huge part of the game," Barton admitted.

"Sometimes you can go into overload, there is a wrong way to go as well. Against Waterford, we had positives as well that we needed to work on, such as the 16 wides.

"You can argue about our inability to kick on and really put a team away, being respectful of Waterford obviously. So there are things we need to work on as well as look at the opposition. Tactically, the way you set up is important, but at the end of the day we have to score more than them.

"We have issues to address and we will look at the opposition. But as I said at the start, they don't come any tougher than an away fixture to Mayo."

Belfast Telegraph

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