The shutters have come down on the Mayo League season for another year, the external competitions have transferred from local rounds to the great open draws. So this Sunday rivalries will be put to one side as the best of the Mayo League come together to launch another assault on the Oscar Traynor Trophy. Mayo get their group stage under way with a trip to Lecarrow on Sunday at 2pm, to take on the Roscommon League.
Michael Hutton has taken over the role of manager this year. Hutton guided the newly promoted Claremorris to an almost improbable Super League title last season, where they were just about held off by Castlebar Celtic. Hutton told the Mayo Advertiser this week that he the response from all concerned to this competition has been very good so far. “In fairness to all the lads and the clubs there has been a great response from them when we came calling to get things going for this years competition. We’ve looked at between 55 to 60 players in the build up to this, we wanted to cast the net as wide as we could and give as many players a go as possible. There were a number of players we were interested in having a look at and bringing in, but they told us straight up that they couldn’t give the time and commitment, you can’t get fairer than that when they’re straight with you.”
Having had a large number of players training in preparation of Sunday’s showdown has been an advantage, but Hutton admits it does make his task of paring down the squad to the match-day number a more difficult task. “It’s going to be very difficult paring down this squad from the 25 to 30 that we’ve had in training for the past three weeks to the 18 we’re allowed to name for a match day squad. But the lads know it’s a tough call and there will be an opportunity for them to get involved for the next game. I’m confident going into the game, you can see from the work that’s being done in training, that the lads are up for it too and what to give this a real go. It’s going to be tough because of the short time frame we have, we’ve haven’t been able to have a friendly yet even, a few fell through because of the weather recently.”
Keeping an eye out for talent
Having been involved in both of the top divisions in Mayo over the past two years has exposed Hutton to a lot of different players plying their trade in Mayo, and that has been an advantage in bringing in players to have a look at. “Having been in the Premier League the year before last, I did get to see a number of players who caught my eye that you might not notice if you were concentrating on the Super League only, so some of them were given a chance. Of course this year in the Super League you get to see all the top players, but because your concentrating on your own team so much you don’t get to see as much as you’d like sometimes.”
The old summer v winter soccer debate raises its head at this time of the year quite often and Hutton said it could be a slight hindrance to his side. “It is a bit of a disadvantage all right that were coming out of season in Mayo where as Roscommon and Sligo are in the throes of theirs right now. It’s difficult for players and managers alike, because you sort of switch off a bit at the end of the domestic season. You can see that in the external competitions like the FAI Junior Cup and Connacht Cup, that maybe the Mayo sides aren’t doing as well as they should because of the league cycle.”
The starting 11 for Sunday is fairly certain in the manager’s mind for a game that their opponents have to win, as he explained. “We’re not far off having our team named for Sunday, bar two positions we’re pretty much certain as to the starting 11. A lot of tough calls will have to be made, but that’s the nature of it. We’re waiting on a few players like Joe Lawless (Westport United ), Tom O’Connor (Ballina Town ) and Brian McHale (Bangor Hibs ) who are injury doubts, but we have plenty of quality players in the squad. It’s do or die for them on Sunday, they lost their first game to Sligo so not even a draw is good enough for them. I watched that game and they are a tough, physical and hardworking side that was backboned by a number of Ballinasloe Town players. They also have also been together for the past six weeks or so, where as we have only had about three weeks at it. They would have played their first game before we had our