There was only one real surprise when John O'Mahony announced his starting line up for this Sunday's clash with Meath in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Croke Park. Castlebar's Barry Moran, who was expected to miss the game with a broken bone in his hand, was named at full forward. Moran, who picked up the injury in training last week, was expected to be sidelined by the hand problem for a number of weeks. But in a similar turn of events to what happened when Ronan McGarrity suffered a facial injury in a club championship match in the lead up to the Connacht final, he seems to have healed quickly enough to be given the nod.
The only change made by John O'Mahony and his back room team to the team which lined out against Galway in Pearse Stadium in July is the inclusion of Ballinrobe's Donal Vaughan in place of Liam O'Malley at corner back; the south Mayo man replaced O'Malley during the win over Galway. The 15 picked to start are the same 15 who started Mayo's championship run on home soil against Roscommon back on June 20. Despite scoring 1-2 off the bench there is still no place in the starting 15 for former All-Star Conor Mortimer, who will have to make do with a place in the subs to start with on Sunday.
Another boost for Mayo will be the return from injury of David Clarke. The Ballina goalkeeper missed out on the Connacht championship after picking up a groin injury, but he is now fit enough to be named at number 16 in the Mayo side for Sunday's game, with Kenneth O'Malley keeping his place between the posts.
Ghosts of 96
It remains to be seen if Moran will be fit enough to take his place in the side on Sunday, but it appears the Mayo back room team are giving him as much time as possible to prove his fitness ahead of the encounter in Croke Park which gets underway at 2pm as a curtain raiser to the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Waterford.
Mayo haven't met Meath in the All-Ireland series since the infamous 1996 All-Ireland final which saw Mayo lose out by a point after a replay, and the mass brawl early in that replay which saw Liam McHale and Colm Coyle given their marching orders.
While Mayo have come through the front door this year in the championship, Meath have been making steady progress through the qualifier route and booked their place in the last eight thanks to their one-point win over Limerick last weekend. That win came at a cost to the Royal County, though, with their star forward Stephen Bray receiving a red card which will rule him out of Sunday's game, if an appeal by the Meath man isn't upheld before then. A place in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry awaits the victors of this clash on August 30. At least one Mayo side will be there anyway, with Ray Dempsey's minors booking their spot in the All-Ireland semi-final with a 3-10 to 1-8 win over Tipperary in Tullamore last Monday. Dempsey’s men will await the winners of the Down v Dublin minor quarter-final which had to be postponed last week after an illness swept through the Down camp.
Also in action this weekend will be the Mayo senior ladies side in the qualifiers. They will play Laois in the second round of the qualifiers on Saturday evening at 6pm in Pearse Park, Longford. Kevin Reidy's side will be looking to shake off their defeat at the hands of Galway in the Connacht final and start to put their championship run back together. Also in action earlier that day will be the Mayo ladies under-16 side who will play Dublin in the ladies A shield final in Tarmonbarry at 1pm.
Mayo side v Meath: K O'Malley, D Vaughan, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Gardiner, T Howley, A Moran; D Heaney, R McGarrity, P Harte, T Mortimer, A Dillion, A Kilcoyne, B Moran, A O'Shea.