The FBD League is traditionally a time for experimentation but, with almost the entire 2016 senior panel away on holidays at the minute, 2017 started this afternoon for Stephen Rochford and his selectors with the most comprehensive appraisal of fringe players seen for many years.
Given this, it’s not surprising that the county’s first outing of the year ended in defeat. Few in the attendance of 3,246 could, however, have many complaints about the entertainment value in this afternoon’s FBD League tie at MacHale Park, which ended in a 1-21 to 2-16 victory for NUIG.
I wasn’t at today’s match – the FBD and me have never really taken to each other – so there’s little I can say about how it played out. Colm Gannon, though, was there and I’m happy to endorse what he says about the game in his match report for the Mayo Advertiser (here) and his post-match video piece (here) where he gets Stephen Rochford’s reaction to the performance.
The one point worth dwelling on, I guess, about this afternoon’s match (aside from the fact that the new jersey made its bow – it looked great in the photos: what was it like in the flesh?) was the amount of new blood on show. I make it eleven full debutants at the throw-in (rather than the ten reported – Brian Reape played in an FBD game last year but only as a sub) and six more off the bench. As has already been remarked in the comments, it’d be amazing if they all knew each other’s names, let alone be expected to play together in any kind of coherent way.
Rory Byrne in goals, Niall McManamon, Ray O’Malley and Donal Newcombe in the full-back line, half-backs Brian McDermott and Michael Plunkett, half-forwards Fionn McDonagh, Cian Costello and Fergal Boland, as well as Liam Irwin and Brian Reape in the full-forward line all made their full debuts for the county this afternoon. It says something about just how callow a selection we fielded today was that the quartet of grizzled veterans we put in alongside the skittish debutants comprised Eoghan O’Reilly, Shane Nally, Danny Kirby and Neil Douglas.
Off the bench came another clutch of newbies. From Castlebar Mitchels came James Durcan, from Kiltimagh came Jason Forkan and TJ Byrne (the latter following in his father Tom’s footsteps), from Crossmolina came Fionan Duffy, from Breaffy came Dylan Cannon and from Claremorris came James McCormack. It really was a day for blooding new talent. Fair play to the lot of them.
The downside of today’s result, of course, is that it closes the door for us in becoming Kings of January. Pah! Let’s leave that one to the Rossies, shall we?
Mayo: Rory Byrne; Niall McManamon, Ray O’Malley, Donal Newcombe; Brian McDermott, Eoghan O’Reilly, Michael Plunkett; Shane Nally (0-2), Danny Kirby (1-0); Fionn McDonagh, Cian Costello; Fergal Boland (0-4); Liam Irwin (0-3, frees), Neil Douglas (1-3, penalty goal and one free), Brian Reape (0-3). Subs: James Durcan for Irwin, Jason Forkan for Costello, Fionan Duffy (0-1) for Reape, Dylan Cannon for McDermott, James McCormack for McDonagh, TJ Byrne for O’Reilly.