After the league Horan has some big calls to make

By John Casey

James Horan will be making some big calls on his squad for the championship over the next while. Photo: Sportsfile

James Horan will be making some big calls on his squad for the championship over the next while. Photo: Sportsfile

With our league success still digesting, the attention now turns to preparing for an assault on the Connacht championship and then hopefully the All-Ireland series.

So much happened during the league, it was difficult to account for it all in one column last week. Obviously, James Horan will be more than satisfied with the win, the league title and the second half performance in particular, where players stood up and were counted - when on so many occasions in the past things have gone against us and the empire crumbled on final day in Croke park.

In summary, it was a very successful league campaign but the losses against our two biggest rivals of late, Dublin and Galway, were a cause for concern, especially the performance against the Dubs in Croke Park, where only Robbie Hennelly performed to his potential. Mayo have now gone 21 games without a win against Dublin or Galway, something James Horan will most certainly want to rectify this summer.

The feel-good factor now surrounding the Mayo footballers is something the manager will want to continue right up until the first Sunday in September. The whole county is buzzing with anticipation and excitement. There was huge interest from a supporter's point of view for Mayo's impending trip to New York in three weeks time; that interest has now doubled following on from the league success - making the ticketing situation for Gaelic Park a nightmare scenario, comparable to the fiasco we have to deal with for All-Ireland finals.

It's estimated that up to ten thousand will travel, when the stadium can only hold less than a third of that, and word has come through that developments to increase the capacity will not be finished in time. In other words, tickets will be like gold dust.

James Horan now has the unenviable task of culling his panel to select his 30 odd players to train together and compete in a Mayo jersey for the rest of the Summer. Of course those shown the exit door will be told the door always remains open and that their form with their clubs will be monitored, but the reality is, if you were involved for the league and then let go, you will only be playing for your club for the rest of the summer.

I don't ever recall a player that was brought back. If the league final Sunday's match day 26 is anything to go by, then there are quite a few familiar names that will be sweating for the next two weeks. Brian Reape, Jason Gibbons and Eoin O'Donohue all lined out for their clubs on the eve of the league final - O Donoghue's omission from the match on day 26 somewhat surprising to me. The erratic form of Conor Loftus and James Durcan leaves the manager with a big call to make regarding those two.

Loftus and Durcan were both substituted after poor showings when Mayo played Kerry in Tralee, it was the Crossmolina man's only appearance in the league. Durcan did play against Galway in those dreadful conditions in Castlebar and was replaced by Fergal Boland in that game. Boland has certainly grown in stature and gone up in the pecking order over the last number of games.

When you add in that Cian Hanley, Cillian O'Connor Seamus O'Shea and Fionn McDonagh have all to return and will surely be part of Horan's plans, it's going to make for a nervy fortnight for many fringe players. Some will be playing for their inter county lives this weekend in the club championship. A big performance for their club will surely catch the Manager's attention.

Speaking of Clubs, Breaffy laid down a giant marker with an emphatic league win over nemesis Castlebar last weekend, winning by 1-20 to 1-11. Is this the year for them? With such a strong representation in the Mayo senior squad, you expect them to deliver every year. The club championship brings about its own worries too for inter county Managers. James Horan will be waiting anxiously by his phone on Saturday and Sunday hoping all his players come through their games unscathed and injury free.

There has been a good debate regarding who has been Mayo's outstanding player of the league. All matters considered, there is only one winner for me and that's Aidan O'Shea, followed by his Breaffy team mate, Matthew Ruane. In fact, If I was to pick a top three league players of the year from across the entire league, Aidan O'Shea would be number one, followed by his name sake Seanie O'Shea of Kerry in second and Donegal’s Michael Murphy in third. Let the debate begin.


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