The news that Ronan McGarrity had been selected to play in Sunday’s Connacht Senior Football Final (subject to passing a fitness test on Sunday morning ) against Galway in Pearse Stadium was a major boost for Mayo when John O’Mahony named his side on Wednesday evening. The Ballina midfielder looked to all intents and purposes to be out of the game after he picked up a fractured cheekbone in Ballina’s Mayo senior football club championship clash with Crossmolina almost a fortnight ago.
There was other good news for Mayo on the injury front with Liam O’Malley able to come back into the side after missing out on the Roscommon game; he will replace Donal Vaughan in the back three. The only other major injury concern that Mayo had going into the semi-final was the absence of David Clarke from between the posts. The Ballina custodian picked up a groin injury in a challenge game the week previously and missed out on Mayo’s rout of Roscommon; his injury has failed to clear up significantly enough to make his way back into the side and Kenneth O’Malley will pick up where he left off against Roscommon as the last line of defence. Apart from O’Malley’s reintroduction to the side, Mayo have named an unchanged team which means that Conor Mortimer will once again be kicking his heels on the bench waiting to get his shot if called upon. Aidan Kilcoyne’s superb showing almost a month ago in McHale Park has seen him retain his place and the number 13 jersey as part of a potentially lethal full forward line alongside Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran, that pair’s height and strength will be key factors in creating opportunities for Kilcoyne to exploit on Sunday. David Heaney will continue in the middle of the field alongside McGarrity, and even if the Ballina man fails to make it for Sunday, Heaney will provide a strong backbone of experience if Tom Parsons does come into the fold.
Sunday will mark the toughest test of Trevor Howley’s early senior inter-county career when he goes toe to toe with Galway talisman Padraic Joyce, if Howley can get to grips with Joyce early on it could swing the game in Mayo’s favour.
Big tests for Mayo on the field
Mayo have yet to be tested seriously going into the Connacht final, having seen off New York with ease back in May and then being home and hosed before half time against Roscommon in McHale Park at the tail end of June. Going in semi-cold against the side who have ended their Connacht ambitions is far from the ideal preparation that O’Mahony would have wanted. Galway have seen off London and Sligo to get to this stage of the competition, they followed up their predictable win over London with a less than impressive performance against Sligo in the Connacht semi-final. It took a late Joe Bergin point followed by a goal deep in injury time from Sean Armstrong to see them over the line against a battling Yeats County side who were managed by Kevin Walsh — a stalwart of John O’Mahony’s Galway side of the late 1990s and the turn of the decade.
While Howley will get a stern test from Joyce, Ger Cafferkey will have to be on top of his game when he squares up with Michael Meehan who can strike fear into even the most experienced full backs, never mind a rookie one. But Cafferkey has shown so far in his short Mayo career that he has the ability and the temperament to go toe to toe with the best of them. At the other end of the field a lot will be expected of Aidan O’Shea — the Breaffy teenager has made a huge splash since making his inter-county debut during the league. He made his first start in the league against Galway in Tuam and took Finian Hanley for 1-1 on a day when Mayo came back from the dead to steal the points. It was that game that actually seemed to send either side on divergent paths, with Mayo moving up the ranks as Galway’s impressive start to the year started to become a little unsteady on its foundations. Nevertheless that game won’t mean anything when the touchpaper is lit on Sunday evening as Mayo go in search of Connacht title number 42 and try to deny Galway their 45th Nestor Cup in a venue where Mayo have never had a good record. Much like Tuam Stadium, but then John Maughan led Mayo there to dethrone John O’Mahony’s then All Ireland champions back in 1999.