Just over six months since Mayo last played a senior inter-county game the road is opening up in front of them for another year. On Sunday in Ballinamore in Leitrim the newest version of the Mayo senior team will take to the field under the guidance of James Horan for the first time. Since his appointment at the end of September, Horan has only been able to run his eye over his new charges a handful of times, the last time last weekend in a series of inter-squad challenge games and previous to that in a number of trial games in November.
Sunday will be the first time that a Mayo team will take to the field with his name as the manager attached to the bottom of the team sheet when they take on Leitrim, who themselves are under the guidance of a former Mayo manager Mickey Moran.
The FBD League is a traditional proving ground for players who may have or may not have what it takes to cut it at the inter-county level and Horan has shown faith in a number of new players and returning older heads for his first game on the sideline. In his starting 15 on Sunday he has given the chance to impress to the likes of Ballintubber duo Cathal Hallinan and Mike Nestor in defence, and Tourmakeady’s ace marksman Kevin Dolan in the full forward line. Making a return to the green and red jersey after extended absences of time are Aidan Campbell from Swinford in the number 10 jersey and former Louisburgh and current St Vincent’s in Dublin man Austin O’Malley. While O’Malley has been around Mayo squads for over a decade now without ever nailing down a place in the starting 15, the return of Aidan Campbell to the Mayo set up is one that should catch the eye. The Swinford player made his last of 10 appearances for Mayo in the All Ireland qualifier defeat to Tyrone in Croke Park in 2008. While he has been two years out of the senior inter-county game, in those 10 previous games for Mayo along with his performances as an u21 and minor he showed bags of potential to bring to the senior game. Crossmolina’s Brian Benson is another who will be looking to take his chance on Sunday having previously flirted with the Mayo squad with out making a major impression.
Mayo will be without a number of key players from previous years due to college commitments. Both Alan Dillon and Peadar Gardiner are back at third level playing for NUIG alongside Castlebar Mitchels Neil Douglas under the guidance of John Maughan in the FBD League. Tom Parsons will be playing for Sligo IT as will Mayo u21 man Kevin Keane, while a number of other Mayo players will be involved with other institutions across the four provinces. However Horan has a number of experienced players named in his starting line up, David Clarke will continue between the posts, with Ger Cafferkey manning the full back berth. Castlebar Mitchels’ Richie Feeney who had a very impressive club championship last season has been given a shot to impress at corner back. Trevor Howley and Chris Barrett will flank Mike Nestor in the half back line, while Barry Moran has been called back from his positioning in the full forward line to partner Ronan McGarrity in the middle of the park. Aidan Kilcoyne will be hoping that he gets a clear run from injury this year after a couple of seasons that have seen him hampered by unfortunate injuries. With Kevin Dolan and Brian Benson an inexperienced pair of corner forwards at this level, Andy Moran who captains the side from full forward will be the focal point of the most forward line of attack on Sunday for Mayo. The game throws in at 2pm on Sunday in Ballinamore and you can read a match report on the game on Sunday evening on www.advertiser.ie/mayo
Lights to come on in McHale Park next week
Mayo’s clash with Down in the opening round of the National Football League on February 5 has been well publicised as being the first big game under lights in the county ground since they were granted retention of planning permission in the ground. However next Saturday night the lights will come on for the first time for a Mayo game when GMIT visit in the national football league. “We will be playing the game next Saturday night under lights, we’re keen to have a trial run ahead of the Down game to make sure that everything is working correctly in relation to the crowds and crowd management, and so on,” County Board secretary Sean Feeney told the Mayo Advertiser. The game had originally being pencilled in for the following day January 16 in Ballinrobe.
Search continues for hurling manager
The Mayo hurling board is still on a lookout for a senior manager with only five weeks to go before it throws in its national league campaign against Roscommon on February 13.
”We thought we had a manager on three or four occasions over the past few months, but unfortunately things came up with lads we thought we had for the job,” Hurling Board secretary Jackie Coyne told the Mayo Advertiser this week. “It’s been a long process and a harder one than we had hoped. I’ve been in contact with a number of people about the job, but we are hopeful that within the next 10 days that we will have someone for the job.”
Last year was a poor year for Mayo with poor league form continuing on into the Christy Ring following two very positive years in the competition, but Mayo will continue in the second tier competition this year despite having the option to drop down to the Nicky Rackard competition. “The lads had the choice there a few months ago as to what competition they wanted to compete in and they decided they wanted to stay in the Christy Ring which is a serious competition and it shows the appetite from the players.” On Saturday, the hurling board will be holding a trial game in Ballyheane for the players as they try to prepare for the forthcoming season as well as they can without a manager appointed.
Breaffy GAA dinner dance
Breaffy GAA club will hold its annual dinner dance in Breaffy House Hotel next Friday January 14 at €20 at 8pm. Music on the night by Henry McGlade, tickets are available from all club committee members.