The old enemy is first up for Mayo as season throws in

GAA: FBD League

Back in action: James Horan will send his Mayo senior side back into competitive action for the first time this year on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

Back in action: James Horan will send his Mayo senior side back into competitive action for the first time this year on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

The biting cold, freezing rain and the FBD League are as far removed from the dog days of Summer as you can get - but it is where the first damp-soled and finger-numbing steps on the journey to high Summer fare are taken.

The Autumn slipped by with attention focused on local skirmishes, the early days of Winter were consumed with local and international flurries in the boardrooms, but as of this Sunday the real deal is back - well, kind of back.

The FBD League won't make or break a season, but it will get the blood flowing a little bit quicker for those in attendance and send thoughts drifting towards what might be in late summer; and as for those who are getting a chance to show a little of what they can do on the field, a match-winning performance won't ensure them of a place at the business end of the year, but it will help to try ensure they are hanging around to get a chance to do their thing when those days come around, when the sun has barely set before it starts to rise again.

With Donegal on the horizon at the end of the month at the start of the league - James Horan will surely be looking to see some fresh talent unearthed to bolster his choices for the long road ahead. But one spanner in the works will be the involvement of a large chunk of young hopefuls and established names in the Sigerson Cup, when their chosen Citadel's of Learning go toe-to-toe in the opening round of that competition on Sunday.

Sunday will also see the first time the fingerprints of the new addition to the Mayo coaching set up, Ciaran McDonald, will be in some way evident on the style of play, but the full imprint of those finger prints will only be seen later on this year. Many will be looking to see is there a new departure in the style of play that Mayo try to impose on the game - James Horan has always been one to try and learn from other sports and before Christmas he was in attendance at a Leinster Rugby training session.

Last weekend saw an experimental Mayo side take on NUIG in a challenge game where experienced heads, like David Clarke, Paddy Durcan, Brendan Harrison and Kevin McLoughlin, all saw game time, as did Tom Parsons; the Charlestown man's return from a serious knee injury at the tail end of last season was one of the feel-good stories of the year for Mayo and it will be interesting to see will he be able to secure his return as one of the key men in the county on Sunday.

As for their opponents on Sunday, the game is a new dawn for them as Padraic Joyce takes control of the Tribesmen for the first time in a competitive game - having taken over at the tail end of last year. Joyce named his team for the game early this week and while he is shorn of the services of the Corofin contingent due to their All Ireland final appearance in a week's time, he still named an interesting looking side which will be captained by Shane Walsh, with the likes of Gary O'Donnell, Eamon Brannigan, Johnny Heaney, Tom Flynn, Michael Daly, Adrian Varley and the aforementioned Walsh all named to start.

The year won't hang on this one for either side, but getting a win over the old enemy is always a good way to get things up and going and another tune-up game the following week, before the league throws in at the end of the month, is another welcome bonus for the winners on Sunday.


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