The Alliance National Football League kicks off this Saturday and first out of the blocks in division one are Mayo, under new manger James Horan. They take on the defeated All-Ireland finalists Down at 7.30pm in McHale Park under lights.
It is an attractive fixture and I know a good few Galway GAA heads who are thinking of going down the road for a “gander” rather than making the arduous trip to Monaghan on Sunday.
Mayo have a host of injuries and will be without Conor Mortimer and Donal Vaughan (both have long-term injuries ), and Seamus O’Shea, Peadar Gardiner and Tom Parsons.
Gardiner, who had been in fabulous form over the past month, pulled a hamstring with NUIG and will have to sit things out for the first few rounds of the league.
Mayo had a facile win over a hapless Leitrim in the FBD last weekend, but Saturday evening will be a significant step up in class.
Down are expected to have current All Stars Brendan McVeigh, Danny Hughes, Marty Clarke and Benny Coulter in their ranks and it will be a big test for Mayo, even on home ground.
* The game is live on Setanta One.
Mortimer ruled out for championship
Mayo’s high scoring forward Conor Mortimer, who has been a constant thorn in Galway’s side over the past few seasons, is highly unlikely to see competitive action in the 2011 inter-county season. At a minimum he will miss the Connacht championship where Galway are due to face Mayo in the semi-final in the last week of June.
His chances of action have been written off after being told he must undergo surgery on his troublesome left knee, which will rule him out for at least five months. Mortimer has had no cruciate in the joint for the last seven years, but has been told by his surgeon he has no choice but to undergo surgery on Friday week.
"It has to be done for my career," said Mortimer. "If I don’t get it sorted, I’m risking permanent damage to my knee. Getting surgery will hopefully prolong my football for a good few years, so it’s worth it.
"I can’t afford to go on another year without any cruciate there. I’d be running the risk of permanently damaging the knee."
Mortimer still holds out hope of lining out for Mayo if they are still involved come the business end of the championship.
"All going well I could be back for late July or August."