Hello to 2018

Image: Creativity103.com

So, 2018 has begun and the new year of football action is a day closer to getting going. This time around there seems to be an air of real enthusiasm among the county faithful for the return of inter-county activity.

While the first round of the FBD League takes place this coming Wednesday we have to wait until next Sunday for our opening match in this year’s pre-season tournament. A tasty fixture it is too, against Galway at MacHale Park, where a number of fringe players will get the chance to display their talents.

Rob Murphy dropped by to my place earlier on today where we recorded some audio for the opening episode of the 2018 season of the Mayo News football podcast. This edition of the podcast will also feature an interview by Mike Finnerty with Stephen Rochford and will be available to listen to at some point on Wednesday evening.

It’s all starting again, folks, so buckle up and enjoy the ride. Happy New Year to Mayo GAA people everywhere.

31 thoughts on “Hello to 2018

  1. Good man wj.
    Happy new year to all.
    Think the m.n is better than the w.p at the moment.
    Balls in your court w.p.
    My opinion.

  2. Happy New year to you Willie Joe and all posters / readers. This time last year i found it very hard to motivate myself to move for football. This year i am ready to go. Regardless of the weather, the adrenaline kicks in once the ball goes up. The heart starts racing as you shout on the team. The sight of so many familiar faces and friends. Really looking forward to it all now. Please God silverware is coming our way this year #nevergiveup #thedreamneverdies.

  3. I am not sure what paper P Spillane wrties for these days but some time this months he will tell the nation that Mayo should go for a league title. The Pat Spillane disciples all over the west who gain all their football knowledge from this scribe will fry our heads with calls from now until the end of the league about we should be going full throttle for a league title. Got to sit beside one last year in McHale Park v Monaghan. A painful experience. We need to have all our ducks in a row by August. If we get to a semi final we need to introduce the likes of DOC, Durcan, SOS, Harrison, Tom Parsons, as our second half subs. This is what was lacking in 2017. A decent bench. The first objective for 2018 is Division 1 status. Anything less than Div 1 status is unthinkable.

  4. PJMcManus, I fear if those 5 you mentioned are sitting on the bench at half time then the game will already be over, we simply dont have equal alternatives to them.

  5. Happy New Year Willie Joe. How good it is to be back to this time of year again and have your blog and the podcasts to look forward to along with all the upcoming games and drama. I just can’t wait for the first game against our old rivals Galway. Hopefully we will see some young blood showing their talents and fighting hard to wear the green & red Jersey come May!! Here we go again…….

  6. We did not have the subs to match the Dubs in the second half last year or the year before. This is the second year in a row that we were beaten by the Dublin bench. Take Paddy, DOC, Harrison, Coen out of the mix we have not been able to match the supply line the Dubs have employed. Our young guns are struggling to make the grade. Hoping to see more of EOD Boland, COS, Loftus, Regan in 2018

  7. Bang on PJ nothing between Mayo and Dublin starting 15 the difference is the 6 subs. Only Durcan and Loftus at times are at the level needed. National league needs to give game time to the fringe lads Conor
    o Shea, Reape , Akram, Nally, Coen, Freeman, Douglas etc. More competitive FBD, kick out change and Super 8 MIT all suit Mayo.

  8. Happy New Year to you all. Best wishes to all the Mayo panel and potential new Mayo panel players for 2018. As far as our subs not being as good as dubs subs thats entirely true and the fact of geographical, financial and player numbers advantage to the dubs should not be lost on anyone. Mayo management need to drill it in very hard to our players that they need 15 on the pitch at all times in championship football. They almost had Galway with only 14 after Higgins was sent off, and if donie had remained in the final its very possible they would have won. Other than that I don’t think we can ask for much else, well maybe that one or two of these young guys will burst through and give Rochford a serious selection problem. Excited already and waiting impatiently to see some Mayo football.

  9. I think David Drake, Danny Kirby and Evan Regan will be under big pressure this Spring.I think Michael Plunkett is going to be the back that comes good this year has alot of ability.Sharoize Akhram and Michael Hall lack size against Dublin I feel.Stephen Coen needs to be more consistent made alot of basic errors in games last year his bad handpass to Chris Barrett in Mayos last attack of the final which led to Rocks free is one that comes to mind.Nally and Crowe to see alot of game time this spring too.
    In the forwards from what I hear I expect Conor Loftus ,James Carr and Brian Reape to see alot of game time in the National League with Neil Douglas and Ciaran Treacy to make a big impact in the Fbd.Big pressure on subs and panel members now than ever there was.

  10. Agree TH. I would say the same pressure will apply to a few others also who have been part of the panel yet have not been handed much championship game time the past two seasons. Can only hold ~35 on the panel come April timeframe so it wont be possible to bring in fresh young talent without cutting a few of the previous panel members loose. Interesting times ahead…

  11. TH a little unfair on Kirby as he got little or no game time last year but yes we need a fresh injection of talent–but be wary everybody was clammering for Regan a few years ago but he has not produced yet.

  12. Agree with jr. Think Kirby deserves a good run in league. If Regan was not in the panel for last 2-3 years we would all be shouting for him here saying he is the missing link we need – natural forward, good scorer, left footed free taker etc – just what we need. But unfortunately he has failed to convince against the top defences – however, I hope he does come good.

  13. Happy New Year Willie Joe and all contributors. 2017 was memorable; so was 2016 – remember we won U21 that year.

    Am excited by what I’m reading about newbies. Keep trying them I guess is management strategy. As TH and others have pointed out great prospects of a few years ago have been underwhelming though the constant iron law continues to apply: if in trouble take off the corner forward. And a good league can mislead. Fergal Boland did very well last year – up to the business end. But he should be all the better for the experience this year.

    Requirements? Stamina or engine in management speak, two feet, long range free-taking, vision, catching ability ( think Donie Buckley has worked really hard here), goal scoring, teak tough defending, midfielders.

    Fellas who have caught my eye (and unlike others my involvement with the club scene is limited), include: James Durcan, Sharoize, Michael Plunkett, Matty Ruane, Johnny Maughan, Padraig O’Hora, and The other Plunkett lad – very good at cf in co final.

    And then there’s the real deal.

  14. I’ll bite Catcol, who is the real deal? 🙂 Brian Reape? That phrase is often juxtaposed after his name on here when posters mention him.
    A player I think I will be proved right on eventually is James Kelly of Belmullet. Looking at the U21 final he was the most senior ready looking player physically. He dominated quite easily any physical exchanges. He is already bigger, quicker and stronger than most of our senior panel. He is quite versatile as well having played half back, midfield and half forward.

  15. Every year we start at this time of year on about new players, and for the most of it, we are wasting our time. There has only been one retirement this winter Alan Dillon. And the one who retired early last season Alan Freeman – is back in the fold. Therefore the championship team and panel will be very similar this year again. These new lads would walk onto a Sligo/Leitrim/Longford panel, but not Mayo. Loyalty in his players is something SR has shown in the past and that won’t change. Giving these lads games in the FBD is just a PR exercise to keep us warriors happy. Normal service resumes then for the league…

  16. While there are alot of names thrown about over the past few weeks (which is encouraging to the future of the team) I really cant see much change in the panel from last year, 2-3 new names to the championship panel max. The players brought in for the FBD in reality are playing for a spot on the development panel for the year, its too much to ask for a player to jump from club football to intercounty championship standard.

    The improvement in the panel will mostly come from within last years set up. I expect Nally and Kirby to play alot of football this year, Brian Reape will be this years Fergal Boland playing the majority of league games. I expect Eoin ODonaghue to play alot at right corner back, this will allow Harrison to move to fb (where I think his future is in the team). I would also be looking at Adam Gallagher, James Carr to make an impression, (whats the point in a development panel, spending resources on them if they are not expected to make to step up the following year). We have two returning padt panelists in Keane and Freeman and to be honest I think their inclusion in this years championship panel is far from certain. Keane is returning from a serious injury which is normally called the a two year injury (1 to get back playing and 1 to get back to full match fitness) also Rochford perferred to play 2016 season with no recognised fb rather than trust Keane in that position which is telling. Freeman is quality and I always had time for him but a year away could have done damage to his chances. Cillian, Andy & Jason are first choice ff line with Loftus pushing hard for inclusion. I expect Reape to get a panel place this year also, then there are younger Kirby, Gallagher, Carr, COShea, in reality there isnt many forward positions up for grabs.

    In reality 2018 will be as you are with the addition of Reape and AN Other. Barring injuries I really cant see wholesale changes to this years panel.

  17. I think Ger McDonagh will grab the full back spot. Brendan Harrison isn’t big enough for full back and is our best overall corner back.
    Shane Nally was in some right good form and he has a few seasons on the panel, he will be in great order I’d say. Think he could be the left wing back if we are trying to transition to 2020.
    Eoin ODonoghue as you said will be the backup corner back. Very assured and run through a wall tough.
    Matthew Ruane can really pressure SOS for the midfield spot and again transitioning to 2020. SOS is good off the bench so this is not a bad call. Ruane is our best footballing midfielder and has speed.
    Brian Reape will get close to starting or as sub like Loftus was.
    Conor Loftus and Stephen Coen might get backed with starting spots. Again, transitioning to 2020 and also rewarding the perseverance/form to give the tight calls to the younger guys.
    I think Rochford will be suprisingly bold this year. He has a term until 2020. He is a very calculating man. He will be sizing up that he wants to win Sam in 2018/19/20. So for that reason I believe in 2018 he will give marginal calls to the younger players. He didn’t do this in 2017 and come those last ten minutes of the final it came back to bite us.
    We have to play our cards right with being brave with the new and older players. We can get extra seasons out of some of our older guys like Boyler and SOS if we can tailor their training load to a 20 min bench role. It’s harder for a mid 30’s guy to maintain the lifestyle/training needed for a starting role. But you don’t need the running volume on the legs if you only need the fitness for 20 minutes.

  18. Morning all,
    a very happy new year to each and everyone of you!
    fire in the belly just reading through posts above,new talent coming through, keane and freeman back in the mix,
    the upbeat and positive attitude of everyone as opposed to this time last year,we were all crestfallen after that loss in 2016 and we ,me included questioned the steel of our lads,as to can they pick themselves up and go again,and boy did they deliver,i had the best summer of my life following mayo around the country in 2017,from the baltic temperatures in Mchale in early feb to the sizzling sunshine of croker , i had the time of my life,
    this january i feel so much more at ease for want of a better phrase,i know they are heroes ,i know they will give it their all,someone mentioned the word cult above,probably the best way to describe us following them,
    i cant wait for sunday to get going again,the kids have their new mayo fluffy hats ready,flags are dusted off,mind you the dust didn’t get long to settle,september 2017 literally broke my heart ,i cried ,but from nowhere this air of calm hit me,we are so close,so bloody close,the tiniest of margins ,i expect big crowds for Fbd ,more magic,and plenty of heart stopping ,edge of the seat games ,but to summarise , as andy said we are Mayo ,we are in this together,a little prediction if i may,2017 saw us building very slowly through a long run of some hard games ,
    but we as a unit refused to lie down,or give up,this saw us BEAT kerry, and that was sweet,so its fair to say in 2017 we took out Kerry,2018 we will nail the Dubs! – lets do this
    love these lads,so proud to be part of the Army of support that trek around the country,
    see you in McHale

    Cmon Mayo

  19. JP – agree with you 100% on Rochford’s likely approach for the remaining three years of his term. He is a very shrewd and savvy manager and I think we will see the start of that transition in this year’s championship panel selection. I would expect to see at least 3 changes on the overall panel come summer (possibly 4 if Jason Gibbons can impress early season). He cannot keep holding back some of the younger (albeit less physically conditioned) players for a blind all-or-nothing skirmish for Sam with the exact same group that just can’t manage to break beyond 2nd best in the country. A more balanced and measured approach is more likely with a handful of changes this year and next that will see the panel evolve gradually as 2020 approaches.

  20. Happy New year to all,I expect a few but not many new squad players i think S Cunnife to push hard,and hopefully a couple more,seems a big change in attitude to S Rochford as people have come to realise he is an outstanding manager and has assembled a powerful back up team,the one thing I believe that has changed ever since J Horan took over is that all the best players are getting a chance some for various reasons cannot avail of them but they have got an opportunity,which is different to when D Brady and C Mc Donald were frozen out

  21. Seamus Cunniffe was troubled at times by Michael McGarry (fine young player) so I think it will take him time to adjust. He needs to start catching more ball not punching it so much.

  22. – SR got his term extended to 2021 because he knows he had to re-build this Mayo team in order to land the ultimate prize while he is manager.
    – I said after the AIF that we need 7 to 9 new players on the extended panel to have REAL completion for places.
    – We have a couple of players on the panel that can play football but either do not have the pace, physicality or aggression for Senior Inter-County particularly against the top teams in Croke Park.
    – Division 1 retention is IMO a must as is a Connacht Title, it has to be the front door all the way to the Super 8’s this year and then let’s see what happens. Good luck to all our teams in 2018.
    – This could be the year we take a step back to take a giant leap forward in 2019/2020, patience, patience…..

  23. JP – I was referring back to James Horan’s catchphrase about Brian Gallagher – he was the real deal according to JH. Don’t think it really came to pass, but he too could be in the mix for 2018.

  24. Think people are getting a bit OTT with young mattie ruane. During the u21s all Ireland winning run he was not exceptional all through, it seems because he was young and was man of the match in the final he is being hyped up by everybody. Now I’m not running the lad down and think he has potential however we must remember he was cleaned out vs Galway last year at u21 by Peter Cooke ( a way better prospect in my opinion, remember the name ) and hasn’t even been a regular starter for breaffy the last few years.

  25. True Blondie very true but is an athlete who could come through. Young players won’t always be consistent.

  26. Brian Gallagher could be well worth a look .hes tall and very skillful great left foot probably has more footballing ability than all our other midfilders we have,maybe workrate off the ball or dominating a game where his weaknesses.
    Played the last 2 seasons with New York.Horan never gave him a good run tho.Preferred to keep his clubman Gibbons in the panel before Gallagher.

  27. Blondie , agree totally on Peter Cooke, he starts for Galway v Sligo tomorrow night, a huge prospect.

  28. Thomas Cooke ,Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh ,Kieran Molloy and Evan Murphy are the 4 big up and coming names in Galway.
    Tuamstar heard someone say Kev Walsh has aload in from the City/West area again not many from the North Galway stronghold?
    Still cant see Galway progressing to far this year.I expect the big pressure on Mayo in Castlebar to restore order in Connacht in May after the what happened the last 2 years.
    Alot of big names not standing up when it matters Shane Walsh , Damien Comer and Paul Conroy all very dissapointing v Kerry last year but Ian Burke a real find there best forward in my opinion.Maintaining Division 1 status and a Super 8 appearance would be a good year for Galway.

  29. Brian Gallagher may or may not come home. He was an average Half Forward before he left, wouldnt be in the same class as Jason Gibbons as a midfielder in my opinion. I thought he had some ability but would fit in and out of games. Stylish yes, but better than our current crop dont think so.

  30. Chris would agree with you 100%. I just think Kevin is in his last chance saloon with Galway this year. He takes a step forward with this team ( beating Mayo and maybe getting promoted to div 1) however then two massive steps backwards in getting trounced by Tipp 2 years ago and Ros last year. Again a step forward in hammering a poor Donegal team but then really not taking the game to Kerry and not taking their chances. Galway have some great talent coming through but like Mayo that can take time. I feel we will struggle in Div 1 and really will do well to stay up and i just cannot see Galway beating Mayo in Castlebar in May. Surely Stephen Rochford will have the Mayo lads primed for a Connacht title this year..

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