The last time that the Mayo senior footballers were in action was the heartbreaking All Ireland senior final replay defeat to Dublin and since then they have been the talk of the country following an interview by their former managers. Almost all of that squad are currently on a team holiday in South Africa so for this Sunday's FBD League opener, it is going to be a very different looking Mayo side for supporters to get their voices behind for the first time this year, and concentrate on things on the field rather than off the field.
With all of last year's current squad available for selection again at present, last week Stephen Rochford announced some additions to the senior squad for Sunday's opener, with Aghamore duo Fergal Boland and David Kenny who were part of last year's victorious U21 football All Ireland winning side and senior hurling Nicky Rackard Cup getting the call up to the senior set up. Joining them are Breaffy attacker Liam Irwin who was also an U21 All Ireland winner last year, netting a couple of vital goals in that final. Senior county champions Castlebar Mitchels have three players drafted in, with Neil Douglas back in the senior set up after a few years absence, along with their captain and goalkeeper Rory Byrne, and defender Donie Newcombe, another newcomer in Charlestown's Gareth O'Donnell. Two senior stalwarts who missed a lot of last year are also back, Ballina's Ger Cafferkey who missed the entire championship last year with injury and Jason Gibbons who injured his shoulder against Galway in Mayo's Connacht Championship defeat to Galway in MacHale Park, his clubmate and another of the All Ireland U21 winning side Michael Plunkett has also been drafted in for the FBD League.
With the vast majority of the squad in South Africa bar Conor O'Shea, Robbie Hennelly, Brian Reape, Shane Nally, and Conor Loftus it will be a very new look Mayo side on Sunday and one that will see plenty of new faces get some game time in the green and red. There will be a decent Mayo involvement on Sunday in the NUIG set up with former Mayo sharpshooter Maurice Sheridan the man on the line for the students, in their season so far they have managed to pick up the Higher Education League Division Two title with a side that featured Eoin O'Donoghue, Adam Gallagher, Stephen Brennan, Steven Conroy, and Kevin Quinn, other Mayo players in the set up include Gerry Canavan and Jack Deane.
The next three weekends will be used primarily for Rochford to cast his eye over the potentials, with this Sunday's opening round game against NUIG and the following Sunday's meeting with IT Sligo giving plenty of chance to give guys a good run, before the first clash against another inter-county side when Mayo travel to Roscommon in round three of the competition in three weeks time. Having football back on the agenda is something that most Mayo fans cannot wait to see, and the FBD will be ideal preparation before Mayo's first National Football League game on the first Saturday in February when Monaghan come to MacHale Park to get things really going.