League opener coming into focus

Image: @MayoGAA

Saturday’s edging ever closer and with it the start of this year’s National Football League campaign. Our Division One opener against Monaghan throws in that evening under the lights at MacHale Park at 7pm.

It was confirmed yesterday – report in the Irish Examiner here – that Aidan O’Shea is definitely out of contention to start on Saturday evening. He sprained his ankle playing basketball but the problem only seems to be a short-term one and it looks like he could be back in time to face Kerry the weekend after.

Today’s Mayo News (paper and digital variants) also confirms the already known absences of Ger Cafferkey (hamstring), Seamus O’Shea (knee) and Brendan Harrison (hip), as well as club-tied duo Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane. Both Westport lads won’t now be available until the Roscommon match towards the end of next month.

Also out of Saturday evening’s match, according to that piece in the Mayo News, are Chris Barrett, Caolan Crowe, Conor Loftus and Ger McDonagh. A fresh casualty on this list is Jason Gibbons, who lined out the last day against Roscommon. It’ll be Friday “at the earliest” before we name our team for this opening League tie.

There’s plenty more besides, by the way, in this week’s Mayo News, including a  preview of Saturday’s game by Billy Joe Padden (he reckons this match “is the biggest league game Mayo have played for years”) and a good in-depth interview by Edwin McGreal with Stephen Rochford. There’s also extensive coverage in the paper of last weekend’s club action.

The ref for Saturday evening’s match is Cork’s Conor Lane. We last crossed paths with him the day of the drawn All-Ireland final where, I felt, he gave us a fair enough shake on the day. Mind you, had he blown for Bastick’s pick up off the floor from Cluxton’s kick-out deep into stoppage time just after Cillian’s equaliser that day, a statue to him in the Mall would surely be in place by now. That, though, is another story.

Paddy Power are bullish about our chances for Saturday evening, installing us as firm 4/9 favourites to do the business. We haven’t had a poll in ages (and I’ve no idea what the poll thingy will look like with all the new formatting but I guess there’s only one way to find out) so time time to crank up the machine again. Here goes:

How will we get on against Monaghan?

  • Win (79%, 416 Votes)
  • Lose (17%, 88 Votes)
  • Draw (5%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 529

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14 thoughts on “League opener coming into focus

  1. Thanks for the update WJ.

    I was checking out Monaghan’s results in the McKenna cup last night. They won all of their group games but then lost to Derry by 2 points in the semi-final, who were then well beaten by Tyrone in the final. Maybe Monaghan didn’t want to get to the final but this is a game for us that we should be looking to win in front of the home crowd, if we have serious ambitions of doing well in the league.

    Dessie Mone is out for them and they have had a few retirements also in the off-season. We seen Paddy Durcan play corner-back against Roscommon so it’ll be interesting to see if he is positioned there in this game to mark Conor McManus, who is their main danger man. We have Cillian O’Connor available this year and the Castlebar lads as well so that is a plus for us. We don’t have quite as many injuries as last year either.

    You would expect Monaghan to have done more work than us though as we didn’t finish up until Oct., so we might even need another Andy Moran cameo role to get us over the line in this game. If Paddy does play in the full-back line (he actually played at full-back for his College team last week also), then I wouldn’t mind to see Keith Higgins played at no. 7 to give him a bit more freedom, as he seems to be conceding a lot more in the last few years playing at corner-back than he used to do previously.

    Remember last year Cork beat us and Monaghan but both of us stayed up and Cork went down. It was the hammering that Roscommon gave Cork that consigned them to Division 2 football. For us we need to get up the table as quickly as possible and be fighting it out with Dublin, Tyrone and Kerry for the top 2 spots. Then you’d expect Roscommon, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan to be fighting it out at the bottom of the table. Kerry still have a few lads on club duty so it’ll interesting to see how they approach the league, as they took it a lot more seriously last year than they did in the previous few years to that. It’s all to play for anyway!

  2. It has been annoying the last few seasons with our poor start to the league – a few early wins would set us up for a tilt at a final place. Also, despite the great support we get (average of 10, 000 now for home league games), our home record in the league has been poor enough. I honestly think we should go all out to win the league. This team needs the confidence of winning a national title. The league is not the championship and performances don’t necessarily carry from one to the other. However, winning the league has not been an issue for Dublin in terms of winning an All-Ireland; so it should not be for us either. This team needs to develop a winning habit on the national stage….and in fairness, if nothing else, the county could do with some national silverware (only 2 league titles in 47 years).

  3. Was never a believer in doing well in the league ( apart from staying up) but I really feel that this year we should aim to win it ! Yes WJ I’m still having nightmares about that FREE KICK ?Every time Bastick is mentioned that’s all I can see ! Will be in Castlebar to welcome Monaghan hope there’s a big crowd!

  4. Good few injuries but may actually means we have a more mobile team which moves the ball faster and with Cillian and Irwin maybe even Freeman inside then that can only be a good thing and should give the inside lads the proper platform to show their talents against a good solid fullback line .

    Boland___Kirby___Kevin MC

    I do think fullback line is light but should be fine if Hughes is playing and they are pumping in high ball then push Donie back but emphasis will be on one man in their full forward line . Like rest of ye think Paddy D is theman for him with Higgins picking up the pieces .
    I wouldn’t play Kevin MC as sweeper in this game as they will most certainly play a sweeper so lets push up on them .
    Newcombe or O Donoghue must be a toss up and probably Newcombe will get the nod having done well and beign at home but I really like the cut of O Donoghue .
    Coen is and will be our no.6 going forward I feel , Nally and Boyle give a solid yet not too adventurous feel to the defence . Good to keep things solid early in the year .

    Parsons and Vaughan have the mobility and abilty to attack at will giving the forwards an option with overlaps .

    Boland has being the man of the FBD league so hope to see more of him, Kirby likewise, I think no.11 will suit him as he wont have to excel as much energy defending and we can get more out of him attacking with his accurate passing, ball winning abilities and powerful presence .
    Kevin Mc can play anywhere so be good to see him taking leadership in a team like this .

    Irwin is an interesting player we all know his limitations but he has alot more positives than negatives so he is a smart lad and play to his best attributes then he could be a good player .
    Ok come height of summer game maybe to fast for him to start (hopefully he can prove that theory wrong) but he make hell of an impact of bench at very least .
    Cillian is Cillian a class act and Freeman is the great Mayogaablog debate on many a thread so many people with differing views of him but I think Rochford will give him his chance with all the injuries and disruption however if he starts Conor O Shea at 15 and no Freeman then I think writing may well be on the wall for him .

    Might be miles away from team that will start but just feel that its solid yet mobile in going forward .

  5. Hope there is a massive crowd and Mchale is packed to the rafters. Can everybody who has their health and who can attend, please do so.

    Remember, these lads were “carried out on their shields” (to quote madwest radio) off the Croke Park pitch last October 1st.

    So can we greet them with a roar that will be heard as far away as the stoney grey soil of Monaghan and roar them on until the final whistle. We need to start making Mchale a fortress. Far too often in the last few seasons, visiting sides have walked off with the 2 pints without too much fuss in front of a muted big home crowd.

  6. – It is not all about adding ‘new’ players to the panel, it should be about adding ‘better’ players to the panel as Mayo need to improve this year.

    – Today’s top class footballer has power, pace, stamina, ability to kick the ball and a cut-throat attitude, these should be a pre-requisites for everyone on the panel in 2017.

    – Players without all of these traits can make a breakthrough for example someone like the Gooch who although built like the handle of a brush has a keen footballing brain and class footballing skills.

    – League for us should all be about getting ‘better’ players on the pitch then last year and retaining our Division 1 status. Tyrone will push hard to win the league this year and they may very well do so because I would expect Dublin to ease off slightly compared to other years and for them to really peak from Quarter Finals onwards for the 3 in a row.

  7. WJ, my therapist was extremely happy with my progress in getting over last October 🙂 . That was until this now, “Mind you, had he blown for Bastick’s pick up off the floor from Cluxton’s kick-out deep into stoppage time just after Cillian’s equaliser that day, a statue to him in the Mall would surely be in place by now. That, though, is another story.”

    Why has there never been much ever said about this (apart from us mad supporters?). Looking forward to being on the road proper again, now where’s me flag…

  8. My team for Saturday…

    Newcombe, Durcan, Nally;
    Boyle, Coen, McLoughlin;
    Vaughan, Kirby;
    Boland, Cillian, Doherty;
    Regan, Irwin, Freeman;

    We know Monaghan will bring a lot of men behind the ball, which is why I put McLoughlin in the backs. He’ll have little or no marking to do, so he can just sweep and break forward in the same way as the Tyrone quarter final last August. Durcan to mark McManus since we are missing so many experienced bodies in defence.

    As the majority of last years squad have only been back training fully for 3 weeks, it is important to mix them with guys that have been in training since December (Newcombe, Boland etc). Monaghan will probably be a fair bit ahead of us in fitness terms so our bench will be crucial. Higgins, Parsons, Andy + others can provide impact in the 2nd half to hopefully see us over the line.

  9. Olive You make a good point. Mayo need better players to join the team. Whether they come from the squad or the underage system makes on difference. It is not about replacing what we have, its about upgrading aka O’Connor, Durcan, Harrison. We should get 6 points in the league and be competitive in all our games. Some players need a chance to play intercounty with the top teams. We should secure Div 1 status and give nally Irwin, Plunkett, Boland Kenny and all these guys as much playing time as our goals will allow. I would love to see Byrne and Kilker and Flanagan get game time also.

  10. I know Diarmuid played for DCU last week but is he over his injury fully?Considering he’s playing Sigerson at the moment he may not be risked this weekend. Obviously if he’s fit, he plays.

  11. Tough one to call this but would vere towards Monaghan to prevail on Saturday evening. They have several extra weeks of training under their belts and will be fresh after their early exit from last year’s championship. Our late return to the fold, coupled with a handful of notable absentees is going to make our task all the more difficult. Those that are selected to play will really have to show their mettle and play with the level of intensity last shown in both AIF matches last autumn. A great opportunity for some of the newer/fringe players to step up and lead.

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