Mayo’s championship season will get underway on Sunday, thousands of miles away from home when they take on New York in the preliminary round of Connacht Senior Football Championship in Gaelic Park at 7.30pm Irish time.
James Horan named his first starting 15 for this years quest to end the 63 year gap between All Ireland titles for the county.
Diarmuid O’Connor has been handed his first championship start for the green and red by his fellow Ballintubber club man in Sunday’s game. O’Connor who is the younger brother of two time young footballer of the year Cillian, made his name as an underage star with the Mayo minor team over the last two years. O’Connor was one of the stars of Enda Gilvarry’s All Ireland minor winning team from last September will link up with his brother in Mayo’s front six in New York.
James Horan’s team for the game features 11 of last years side that started the final loss to Dublin in Croke Park, with O’Connor coming into the side along with Kevin Keane, Jason Gibbons and Jason Doherty. Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett, Alan Dillon and Alan Freeman are me to come out of the team from Mayo’s last championship game.
Horan has made a number of positional switches also to the side, with Keith Higgins moving back into the full back line after operating mainly in the half-forward line since the middle of last summer. Horan has also handed the number 11 shirt to Seamus O’Shea, with his brother Aidan and Jason Gibbons continuing their midfield partnership on Sunday.
Robbie Hennelly holds on to his place in goal, with Tom Cunniffee and Kevin Keane in the full backline alongside Higgins. The half-back line is made up of the trio of Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle and Donal Vaughan. The half-foward line sees O’Shea being flanked by the debutante O’Connor and Burrishoole’s Jason Doherty, with team captain Andy Moran forming one third of the inside forward line with Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O’Connor flanking him. The team shows five changes from the team that lost to Derry in the National League semi-final three weeks ago with, Cafferkey, Freeman, Shane McHale, Brendan Harrison and Mikie Sweeney dropping out from the team, with Cunniffe, Keane, Seamus O’Shea and the two O’Connor’s coming into the side.
The New York team for the game was also announced during the week with no less than 11 counties represented in Ian Galvin’s side. There is some Mayo interest with Parke man Ray Coyle the sub goalkeeper for the exiles. The team will be captained by Laois native and former Australian rules player Brendan Quigley with Donegal’s Ross Wherity another familiar name to GAA followers. Both men lined out for their native counties in last years championship. Other players with inter-county experience are Gerald McCartan and Keith Quinn from Down and Cork’s Dennis O’Sullivan.
Galvin has only five of last years team that lost to Leitrim at the same stage with goalkeeper Gavin Joyce, defender Keith Scally, midfielder Alan Rafter and forwards Jason Kelly and Gary O’Driscoll the five to survive for New York.
The Mayo Advertiser will be in New York this weekend and you can read all about the game from late on Sunday night on www.advertiser.ie/mayo