A bit like the masters team the Mayo junior team creep in under the radar every year, and this year was no different. A devastating second half display in Carrick on Shannon two weeks ago today saw Mayo dispatch Leitrim with ease and set up this weekend’s Connacht final.
Billy Fitzpatrick’s men will face Roscommon in the same venue this Sunday on the under-card of the Leitrim v Roscommon Connacht Senior Championship quarter-final. Every year Billy Fitzpatrick puts the calls out to players around the county to see if they are interested in playing for the junior side, some aren’t interested, and some say they will come along but never do, but it hasn’t dented his enjoyment of the role. “It’s great getting the lads together and giving it a go, it can be hard at times because you have so little time, but the ones who do come along put in a great effort.” For the game against Leitrim a fortnight ago Mayo had only 19 players available, some of whom were no shows on the day. “We had 19 in the squad going to Leitrim, some of them were injured and some didn’t just show up, but we have added a few new lads come into the squad. We’ve brought in Kevin Costello [Carramore], Damien Burke [Kilmaine], and Alan Egan [Bonniconlon] to the squad since the last game.”
Injuries rule out duo
But it’s not all good news for Mayo with the news that both Kilmaine’s Paul Doherty and Killala’s Rory Hannick will not be available for the game. Doherty is out of the game due to prior holiday commitments and Hannick is out injured. But other injuries are clearing up and Fitzpatrick hopes to see them in the squad for Sunday. “Marcus Hannick is back in contention, and we are also holding out hope that James Gill will come through the championship game with Westport on Saturday night so he can make the panel for Sunday. We’re also hoping that Cathal Freeman will be fit to take some part in the game.” Freeman came on for the Mayo senior hurling side last weekend against Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup quarter final and hit five points from play, but is still doubtful as Fitzpatrick explained. “The problem he has is with his kicking leg, he has no problem running, but it’s when he is kicking he has a problem, but he’s getting physio on it so hopefully he’ll make it through.”
Evening the playing field
Normally Mayo are at a disadvantage in the junior championship, because the other competing counties are only limited to fielding players who have played in the Connacht Senior Football Championship the previous year. Whereas Mayo are not allowed to field the same or any player who has played senior club championship football the previous year. But the timing of this game ,as the under-card of the Connacht Senior Championship quarter final featuring Roscommon, has stopped the primrose and blue county fielding a B team of senior players. “I suppose it’s an advantage to us this year, but then again we’ll know even less about the players we are facing, but it does give it a more even playing field on Sunday. If the lads go out and do what they can and play the way they know how to, then there is no reason we can’t win it,” said Fitzpatrick.