Photo: The 42
There’s been a fair bit of fire and fury on here and across social media following yesterday’s events at Castlebar. But the sun’s back up again this morning, the world is still turning and now there are three FBD League matches on the way in a hectic five day spell.
First up is the Round 3 match against Leitrim – whose game against Sligo also fell foul of the freezing conditions yesterday – at MacHale Park on Wednesday night at 7pm. The Castlebar venue is also where the refixed Round 2 match against Galway will be played on Friday evening, where throw-in has been set for 7.30pm. Then, next Sunday, it’s Hyde Park for our annual pre-season joust with Roscommon.
Largely lost amidst the welter of giving-out yesterday was our interesting team selection for the game. By my reckoning the starting fifteen we named – details here in case you missed it – contained no fewer than six players making their inter-county debuts at senior level.
Had the match gone ahead it would have seen Steven Duffy, Jamie Oates, Shairoze Akram, Matthew Ruane, Ryan O’Donoghue and Peter Naughton all make their first senior start for the county. In addition, Fionn McDonagh would have been making his first appearance since his debut in the opening FBD match this time last year, another game in which a raft of newbies were fielded.
But yesterday’s line-up wasn’t just about the fresh faces. Kevin Keane, back in action once again after his cruciate lay-off, was named to start at full-back, Jason Gibbons was recalled to midfield, while Neil Douglas and Adam Gallagher were both due to feature in the forwards, with Alan Freeman a further option in that sector off the bench.
Clearly, with three pre-season matches coming up between Wednesday and Sunday there’ll need to be plenty of player rotation. The 2017 squad will be back off their holliers this week so a number of them are likely to feature on Sunday but I suppose a few could be pressed into service on Friday evening as well.
The need for cover in the squad was underscored by Stephen Rochford yesterday. Speaking with Colm Gannon of the Mayo Advertiser (report here) after the match was postponed, the manager confirmed that Seamus O’Shea, Donal Vaughan and Chris Barrett are likely to miss much, if not all, of the upcoming League campaign through injury. Lee Keegan has already been ruled out for the entire spring set of games due to the double hip surgery he underwent before Christmas.
Necessity is, though, the mother of invention. With a number of front-rank performers on the sidelines for the League, it’s an opportunity for others to stake a claim for inclusion, not just in the match-day 26 this summer but in the team itself.
Stephen Rochford is clearly open to seeing new talent emerging in his squad. He moved yesterday, however, to dampen down the expectation that this year will see major changes within the panel (quote from the Irish Independent – here):
That seems to be a common perception for the last number of years. We’ll find the players that are there. We’re always of a mind that there’s good youthful footballers in Mayo, and if they’re good enough, they’ll be in the squad and might push out somebody that was there last year.
I think we’ll certainly see some changes this year compared to last. Injuries could force us into unplanned line-up alterations and form will, as it always does, have a major bearing on team selection. But whatever changes are made, they’re likely to be gradual. Which is exactly what you’d expect in a team operating at the level we’re at.
The manager also took the opportunity yesterday to nail a few untruths concerning that rather stupid training camp story. Colm Gannon has also got the low-down on that one – it’s here.
Right, that’s your lot. No Monday match reports but, as you can see, plenty of other stuff to cover. In one way or another we’re back up and running once more.