Mayo continued their preparations ahead of their Connacht championship campaign opener against Sligo on Saturday week last Tuesday night when they played Kildare in a three period challenge behind closed doors in Longwood. It was Mayo’s fourth challenge game in 10 days, having previously beaten Cavan, Westmeath, and Dublin. Mayo went down by a point against the Lillywhites in a contest that was played over three 25 minute periods, with a side starting to look like it was taking shape for Saturday week’s game against Sligo. Tom Cunniffe continued at centre half back, flanked on either side by Peader Gardiner and Kevin McLoughlin. Kenneth O’Malley got a run out between the sticks for Mayo while Alan Dillon, who had been nursing an injury, came on to score a point. Donal Vaughn, another who picked up an injury in recent weeks, also made an appearance from the bench. Andy Moran was Mayo’s top scorer, kicking 1-4, while Conor Mortimer chipped in with five points from frees. The challenge game was the sixth in 10 days that many of the Mayo players had taken part in, including club games. They will get a break from club action ahead of the Sligo game with the club action in Mayo reverting back to the secondary league ahead of their championship clash and the start of the club senior and intermediate championship proper in a fortnight’s time around the county.
It has not been that hectic a schedule according to John O’Mahony. “It may look like it, but they were training games you could say. You’d be doing the same thing in training and, as everybody saw in Hollymount last week, everyone got a run out,” he said. “It’s the nature of things at this stage of the year with championship coming up. We also had the lads playing club games in the mix too.”
O’Mahony also confirmed that Aidan Kilcoyne will definitely be out of the game against Sligo, while doubts remain over a few players. “Aidan will miss the game, while Trevor Howley has had a tight hamstring since playing for Knockmore last weekend. The picture should become clearer over the weekend and you always have a few knocks and niggles to deal with. We have a few lads coming back from injuries and you have to check all the three boxes of being medically fit, physically fit, and match fit for championship, so these things have also to be considered.”
The return of the likes of Ronan McGarrity, Peader Gardiner, Tom Cunniffe, and Barry Moran from injury, along with Billy Joe Padden, has thrown up a number of potential selection headaches for O’Mahony. “It has added a new dynamic to the team that wasn’t there for the league campaign and give different options. But behind the scenes you also have a number of other things going on, like we’ve had to work around exams for a number of lads for the past number of weeks and that can be a very stressful time for those involved, and with the injuries and making sure that everyone is fit and ready for action. These are all things that have to be taken into consideration and people may look at the team sheet for last weekend, or even Saturday week, and go ‘why isn’t he playing, or him,’ but there are a lot of things that have to be considered.”
Who will make the starting 15?
While Barry Moran sat out the game during the week, he has impressed over the past few challenge games for Mayo and has given O’Mahony a number of selection headaches for the full forward line, with Moran, Aidan O’Shea, Conor Mortimer, Alan Freeman, Enda Varley, and Mark Ronaldson all looking to be battling it out for one of the three shirts to be handed out in the inside forward division. Billy Joe Padden has lined out at centre half forward on a number of occasions over the last few club games and with a fit Alan Dillon, along with Andy Moran, looking like certainties for a spot along that line, it leaves Billy Joe Padden, captain Trevor Mortimer, Pat Harte, and potentially Seamus O’Shea fighting it out for the other spot. O’Shea, who impressed through the league in midfield, will also be looking to nail down a place in that sector against Tom Parsons with Ronan McGarrity, the man who looks certain to hold his spot in the middle.