Our League opener this coming weekend is already the central focus but I’ve one final FBD-related job to do before dispensing with the 2018 pre-season. This is my usual annual review of who lined out for us over the last few weeks, who scored what, who the new faces were and how the team performed overall.
Let’s start with the table of players who lined out for us in this year’s FBD campaign. It’s rather a long table, as rather a large number of lads saw action for us over the last few weeks. 47, to be exact. This total compares with 40 last year, 26 in 2016, 35 in 2015 and 32 in 2014.
It’s worth noting, in passing, that comparisons with the last few years aren’t all that valid, given that this year the third level colleges weren’t included in the FBD and the format of the competition (such as it was) comprised one group. As a result, we played four matches rather than three in previous years.
Maybe because of that – though, perhaps, the fact that we had to play three games in just five days was relevant too – no one player lined out for us in all four matches. Indeed, not one of them made three starts either. Last year, by contrast, six players started all three matches for us.
Three players were, though, ever present for us over the four matches played. Jason Gibbons, Fionn McDonagh and Kevin McLoughlin each made two starts and two appearances off the bench.
A further six players appeared in three of the four games. Diarmuid O’Connor, Shane Nally and James Stretton each started twice and came off the bench once, while Shairoze Akram, Ger McDonagh and Peter Naughton lined out once and came on as a sub twice.
We blooded another slew of debutants this January, the bulk of them in the Leitrim game, which was played when the 2017 squad were still away on their holliers. In that match, Paddy O’Malley, Marcus Park, Ger McDonagh, Aidan Butler, James Stretton, Jordan Flynn, Nathan Moran, Ross Egan and Ciaran Treacy all lined out for the county at senior level for the first time ever. In addition, Oisin McLoughlin, Matthew Ruane and Peter Naughton all debuted from the bench that night.
Mattie and Peter then lined out from the start for the first time at senior level two nights later in the Galway game, on a night when Shairoze Akram, Ryan O’Donoghue and Jamie Oates also made their first senior starts. In total, we gave debuts to fifteen players – a whole team! – over the course of this pre-season campaign.
Top of the pops scoring-wise was Jason Doherty. Although he only lined out in the final two games his 1-5 (four from frees) was enough for him to collect the Mayo GAA Blog Golden Boot Award for January. Noteworthy too in the scoring stakes were young guns Fionn McDonagh and Ciaran Treacy (with five points each), Brian Reape (with four points in his sole appearance) and Peter Naughton, with 1-1.
Overall, we ran up at total of 2-43 over the four games, conceding a total of 2-45. In that regard, the excitement levels were well down on twelve months ago when, in three matches, we bagged a total of 7-48 but also shipped 4-52 at the back. But, hey, who’s counting? It was, after all, only the FBD.