While the FBD League in January is not somewhere that you can make an solid predictions of what is to come in the year ahead, there is one thing that you can take from this year’s early season jaunt around the province at this stage, and that is that James Horan was true to his word when he said he would be giving all his players a chance to impress during the competition.
Last Sunday Horan sent an entirely new 15 into action against Roscommon from the one that played GMIT the previous week. David Killeen, Eoin Reilly, Lee Keegan, James Kilcullen, Ian Rowland, Andrew Farrell, Cathal Freeman, and Brian Benson were all given the opportunity to show their stuff in Ballyhaunis alongside some more established names. While they were very slow to start, in the second half Mayo showed battling qualities that really pleased the new boss. “We played some very good football in the second half,” he said. “We won breaking ball, we dominated midfield, we broke forward from the back, we let the ball in early to the guys that were winning it inside. We just did what we should have been doing in the first half and it paid off.”
With the national league opener against Down coming up in eight days, Horan will have to nail down his squad for the competition in the coming days and there will be a few factors to consider when he makes his decision on some close calls. “I suppose there are going to be a lot of players who are of a similar level, a similar ability, and what it will come down to, at the end of the day, is attitude. That will be a significant factor, and desire, and how much they want it.”
This Sunday’s game against Leitrim will give a number of fringe players their last chance to audition for a role in the squad, and Horan also has to throw into the mix the fact that the likes of Alan Dillon, Neil Douglas, Peadar Gardiner, Kieran Conroy, and Jason Doherty were all lining out for NUIG in their win over Galway last weekend, which booked their place in the final of the FBD League. Other players such as Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin, and Alan Freeman were all in action in the O’Byrne Cup for DIT and will be looking to get a place in his plans for the National League. Mayo will play Leitrim in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim on Sunday afternoon at 2pm.