Mixing things up has worked for Horan so far

GAA: National Football League Final

On the up: Matthew Ruane is one of the players given a chance to shine during the league by James Horan. Photo: Sportsfile.

On the up: Matthew Ruane is one of the players given a chance to shine during the league by James Horan. Photo: Sportsfile.

With ten minutes to go last Sunday, James Horan introduced James Carr into the action, making the Ardagh man the 34th player to get game time during the league for Mayo this season.

So one thing that cannot be levelled at James Horan since he has returned to the Mayo managers position - is that he is predictable when it comes to team selection. Horan has in fact mixed an matched his team in each of their seven league games to date, with just Aidan O'Shea and Jason Doherty ever presents in his starting line ups - with Donal Vaughan and Stephen Coen the only other two players to play a part in each of those seven outings - with five starts and two sub appearances of the bench for both.

When Sunday comes around with Mayo playing against Kerry in the league final, nobody would be surprised to see a 35th or 36th player get a chance to show their stuff on the field, such has been Horan's faith in using his squad to its full effect.

Last Sunday's clash with Monaghan was a prime example of Horan's trust in the entire squad, the game offered Mayo a chance to get to a national final and it could have been easy for him to go back to the tried and trusted, who have delivered on the field for Mayo, year in, year out. But Horan stuck to his guns and announced a match day 26 that did not include the likes of Andy Moran, Keith Higgins or Lee Keegan - and only for an injury to Michael Plunkett, Colm Boyle was not slated to be included in the match day squad.

Even when they were taking on water against the Farney men down the home strait - Horan opted not to put the Davitts warrior into the action and instead, dragooned into the fray Jason Gibbons and James Carr for their first league action, alongside David Drake, who had made made only one appearance from the bench at that point against Tyrone in round two.

Who is Horan's number one is still up in the air, with David Clarke starting four games so far and Rob Hennelly starting three - with the Breaffy net-minder twice replacing Clarke due to injury during games, including the last two games.

Horan has also placed a lot of trust in the younger members of his squad, with eight of the 2016 u21 All Ireland winners getting game time, with most of them seeing substantial time on the field. Diarmuid O'Connor of course has been trusted with the role of the team captain this year and the only league game he didn't start was the loss to Dublin in Croke Park. Coen, as mentioned earlier, played a part in all seven games so far, while Matthew Ruane got his first game time as a sub against Tyrone in round two and since then, has gone to start the five other games and form a formidable midfield partnership with Aidan O'Shea.

Fergal Boland started the round one and round seven games and came on in two more - having a major impact in both of Mayo's last two wins over Kerry and Monaghan. Michael Plunkett started three games and was slated to start last weekend against Monaghan - until injury ruled him out, while Conor Loftus got one start and James Carr got a few minutes in the tank last Sunday.

From last year's Mayo u20 side that reached the All Ireland final, Conor Diskin has started two games and came on as a sub in another - while Colm Moran also got a start against Tyrone in round two. Meanwhile the captain of that team, Ryan O'Donoghue, is still recovering from injury - as is Cillian O'Connor and Cian Hanley.


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