Championship start now coming into focus

Photo: GAA.ie (Sportsfile/Harry Murphy)

There can often be a longish lull each year between our final League match and our Championship opener. Not so this year, in light both of our run to the League final and the trip to New York. The League decider was only played a few short weeks ago but the match in Gaelic Park is now but eleven days away.

Nowadays, of course, the Championship gets going sooner in the year. The New York game used to be a scheduling outlier, taking place two weeks ahead of the start of provincial championship action back at home. This year Galway play London the same day as we line out against New York and the following weekend the first shots will be fired in Leinster and Munster.

So, in that regard, I guess it’s no surprise that yesterday the formal launch of the Connacht Senior Football Championship for 2019 took place. The event was held, as usual, at the Connacht Centre of Excellence in Bekan and it has generated a good deal of coverage today.

James Horan had a bit to say at the launch. There are pieces with him today in the Irish Examiner, Irish Independent, Irish Sun, Irish Mirror and Herald, as well as on the GAA website (here).

As you’d imagine, these are all much of a muchness. What James has to say, though, about the commitments made by players and the maturity displayed by the lads on the senior panel – which chimes with recent comments from Lee Keegan – is rather refreshing and provides some insight into his style of leadership.

Amidst those pieces there are nuggets about Tom Parsons (on the road to recovery but someone who “still has a way to go yet”), Cillian O’Connor (should feature against New York) and Seamus O’Shea (may not be ready for New York).

UPDATE: Mike Finnerty has a piece with James Horan from yesterday’s event in the Mayo News (here). Mike’s full interview with James will feature in the next edition of the Mayo News football podcast, which will be online on Monday.

Sky Sports also have a video piece with James, recorded at Bekan yesterday. You can see that here.

Separately, Edwin McGreal has a piece in the Irish Examiner today (here) where he confirms the news about the six players who were recently cut from the squad. This piece also covers the recent inclusion in the senior development panel of Micheál Schlingermann (Kiltimagh), Shairoze Akram (Ballaghaderreen), Ben Doyle (Westport), Oisin McLaughlin (Westport) and Mikey Murray (Ballina Stephenites).

Back to yesterday’s Connacht SFC launch where two other bits of news took prominence. The first was the revelation – which I’d heard whispers about some weeks back – that Damien Comer could miss the entire provincial campaign. Pieces on that story here – GAA, Irish Examiner, Irish Independent, The 42.

The Galway captain fractured his ankle over Christmas and he’s now targeting a mid-June return date. This may mean he’ll feature off the bench in the Connacht final – on the reasonable assumption that Galway will get by the might of London and Sligo first – but even that sounds like a stretch at this stage.

The second major story emanating from Bekan yesterday was the announcement that Connacht GAA will shortly begin the construction of an air dome playing facility on the site with completion expected in December. This story is covered by GAA, RTÉ, Sky Sports, Irish Independent, The 42, Balls.ie.

Hailed yesterday by provincial secretary John Prenty as the biggest sports air dome of its kind in the world, the €3 million project will be 150 metres in length by 100 metres in width, accommodating within it a pitch almost the size of MacHale Park. It’ll be 26 metres in height and so will provide another landmark on the East Mayo horizon to go with nearby Knock basilica.

Funding for the project includes a major cash injection from the Government, in the form of a €2.1 million grant through the Rural Regeneration Fund, and John Prenty was adamant yesterday that no ongoing financial burden for clubs or counties within the province will be created from the venture.

The facility will mainly be used for coaching, games development and matches, focusing particularly on schools and juvenile activities, where bad weather can so often be an impediment. It sounds like an ideal solution in that regard, one that you’d imagine will get a serious amount of usage.

The dome could even, John Prenty reckoned, see action in the FBD League, though the 600-seat capacity planned for it falls well short of the usual diehard turnout for Mayo’s pre-season fixtures. In that instance, the scramble to get in could turn out to be like America at home.

Talking of America, let’s finish on that note. New York’s manager Justin O’Halloran, speaking to the Irish Examiner (here), reckons that “something seriously crazy” would have to happen for his charges to get the better of us on Sunday week. The Cavan native cautions, however, that his lads are well fired up for the match and are relishing a crack at the League champions. We have been warned.  

30 thoughts on “Championship start now coming into focus

  1. A lot of interesting stuff there.
    I know there is an Air dome of sorts out in Santry but I don’t believe it’s large enough for Gaelic Football, great to see the facility in Bekan being expanded and improved.
    I wonder will James trim the panel further and if so, who might lose out. I’m not all that surprised at the ones he’s cut from the panel if I’m honest.

  2. DamoC – Initially it was because he was recuperating from knee surgery. I don’t think it’s right to go into the ins and outs of why he was dropped from the panel thereafter but there were valid reasons for why this happened. I think it’s best to leave it at that.

  3. James comment ‘the commitment and motivation of these guys are phenomenal” ..thats what we love about this team. An amazing group. Great to read that Tom is running. Best of luck to Seamie on his wedding day (and recovery from injury). Such a busy time for them all. Met so many who are travelling to New York. Wish I was with ye all. Please keep us updated with all the crack and shennanigans from the Big Apple!!

  4. Hard to believe the great adventure for 2019 is a mere 12 days away.

    The game may been seen as a formality but it’s not. As JH said post LF we need to cut out the small mistakes. We will be to strong for NY but it’s the first game in a complex and long puzzle to end of this damn taking Sam back.

    I’d say the panel selection is now fierce with COC and J Hanley back to and hopefully the rest bar longer-term injured TP back fighting.

    Jersey is hanging up ready for NY.

    “Anyone buying or selling a ticket…….” ??

  5. Just over a week out from the game in New York and not a sniff of a ticket!
    Even them 100 dollar tickets are sold out.
    Anyone in the know about the chances of getting them on the day?
    Gettin very nervous about it now, worse than an all ireland.

  6. its a glorified exhibition match! What would anyone be getting nervous about. Go over and have the craic, the football is only an excuse for the party

  7. Well Mayo1990, I think the general advice doing the rounds is to get there (very!) early and it’ll be first come first serve for tickets at the gate.
    That’s the way it was 5 years ago, although I got in less than an hour before throw in that time. No chance of that happening this time though.

    People are talking about getting there from 8.30 this time.
    Personally I’m not sure what people are going to do with themselves for nearly 6 hours in there.
    There was a bar there last time, but doubt it’ll be open that early (and would you really want to be drinking for 6 hours before watching a game of football!).
    Maybe they’ll put on a puppet show for the early comers to keep us entertained. It’ll be like watching Brolly and Spillane on the Sunday Game.

  8. Hard to believe in this day and age of health and safety that the New York GAA are allowed to sell tickets at the gate on a first come first serve basis. No one even knows how many of these first come first serve tickets will be in sale. What happens if there are 2-3 thousand people still outside when all these tickets are gone and a push starts. Receipe for trouble. With a sell out like this – there should be no tickets on sale at the gate.

  9. Well maybe nervous isn’t the right word, but feck it, it’ll be a bit of a dose to go all the way over and not get to see the game.
    I’d say it’ll be a case of gettin there early alright, pity ya couldn’t just get the ticket in the morning and head off again for a few hours before the game starts, going to be a long few hours hangin around.

  10. Agree South Mayo Exile, said it ago months ago. If the police or fire dept knew the details of this I don’t think they would let it happen.

    As I understand it the capacity is reduced to about 4k,the number of tickets going on general sale would be considerably less and then you have maybe 5-6k pushing at the gate.

  11. For info, I’ve just updated with the post, with a link to an interview piece Mike Finnerty did with James Horan at yesterday’s event. Mike’s full interview with James will be in the next edition of the podcast, out on Monday. I’ve also added a link in the same post to a Sky Sports video piece with James that was recorded yesterday.

  12. I just got the tuxedo back from the dry cleaners for the big shindig down in Wall street and I’m going to send it out in the kit van with Tommy G, he’s heading off tomorrow with the size 5’s and the quartered oranges. It’ll be the biggest exodus from this county to the states since Black 47.

  13. when i first read about the DOME in bekan i thought it was an april fools joke.i am absolutely flabbergasted that 3 million euros would be spent on constructing it.in my opinion that money should be given to clubs to improve their facilities.gaelic football and hurling were always meant to be outdoor sports and not played inside in a dome.I dont what the world is coming to at all

  14. Jimbo, maybe think about the opportunity for teams, (particularly underage) to be able train and play games in winter months. It has also been confirmed this project will not impact clubs within the province and I’m sure won’t affect clubs ability to apply for funds to upgrade their own facilities.

    The Irish have a unique ability to bemoan any bit of investment. I for one welcome this development as I do any investment in a province which has been neglected for too long compared to others.

  15. The dome is far sighted and a good move. Weather patterns are worsening. It’s a guaranteed playable surface.
    Also allows training easier in exteme cold.

  16. The dome will be a great facility. The u21 championship in mayo is always played during November/December in the worst possible conditions. Similar to the secondary school games being played in February/March. The harsh weather is bound to turn some lads off from playing.

  17. 17 football referees on the 2019 panel, breakdown as follows, not too well balanced as regards the 4 provinces.
    7 from Ulster
    6 from Leinster
    2 each from Connacht and Munster

  18. can anyone tell me what is the best time for queuing up in the morning for the Mayo v New York game at Gaelic Park please?

  19. I see that Sky have confirmed that they will be showing our Connacht semi-final against Ros/Leitrim (assuming we don’t fall on our arses on Sunday week of course) on Saturday 25th May.
    Surprised enough with that, considering the increased coverage of hurling last year, something which could even increase again this year.

  20. And what an atmosphere we’ll have in Carrick that night Dan, I’d expect a full house, Sky will be delighted !!

  21. Cormac Reilly gone from the panel of football referees for this year. Oh no. Now we certainly wont win it this year either.

  22. Great question James. Trying to figure it out myself. Was at Leitrim game last year. Arrived an hour before throw in and walked right in. Most seats were taken/reserved. Squeezed onto bleacher with daughter and boyfriend. Grounds were packed by start. I’m hoping 11:30 is early enough this year. There are other games beforehand with a hurling match starting at 9.

  23. I believe the Dome is a splendid idea. Shelter from the rain not to mention the benifits of preserving other playing surfaces in frost and heavy weather.If there is a down side to this idea its beyond the horizon to me.

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