The inclusion of Gavin Duffy in the Mayo senior squad certainly got tongues wagging in the county and several people asked about my opinion on the matter. Gavin Duffy played midfield for the Mayo minors in an All-Ireland final in 1999, which is 15 long years ago. My senior inter county career finished the same year, I wonder would James Horan be interested in a fifth choice goalkeeper; you have my number, James. There is certainly no guarantee a good minor will become an integral part of a senior set up and I have watched many brilliant minors fall by the way side and some weren’t even playing club football by the time they were 22, but in Duffy’s case I’m sure he would have made the grade. The fact that he went on to have a very successful professional rugby career with Connacht and Harlequins reassures me that whatever he put his hand to he would have been a success. There are loads of positives to take from his inclusion in the panel. He has been a professional sportsman for the guts of 15 years so the physique, stamina and temperament are already in place. He is a leader and captained Connacht for many years and his inclusion will lift the tempo at Mayo training and push the existing players that bit further.
A note in point, with the way current county players train and mind themselves you will find that Gavin Duffy will not be alone in his physical condition within the Mayo set up. Most county players look like rugby players now and already the thought of a collision between himself and Colm Boyle at training makes my eyes water. My only concern is how his skill levels will be with a round ball after 15 years playing with a rugby ball. I have no doubt his training regime will involve two hours of ball skills pretty much every day to get him up to speed as fast as possible. The next big question is where to play him? He played midfield as a minor, played full back in rugby so you’d imagine he would have to be considered for a central position. Now is the time to experiment, I would try him everywhere from full back to full forward to see where he is most comfortable. There is also no guarantee we will see Gavin Duffy playing for Mayo this summer although I could think of a few guys I’d like to see him rugby tackle before the summer is out. I wonder if he would escape a black card on the grounds of his previous career.
The real stuff has now began
The championship started in earnest last weekend and as expected Mayo will travel to Hyde Park for a semi-final showdown with Roscommon on June 8. Roscommon had little trouble disposing of a poor Leitrim side. I had a laugh at Roscommon manager John Evans’ post match interview when he tried to pile pressure on Mayo claiming Roscommon will give them a better game than they did last year and finishing his interview with “it will be better for Mayo”. It didn’t sound good, and like he was wishing for Mayo to have a long season, maybe he’s a closet Mayo supporter deep down. I thought the day for that sort of nonsense, playing down your team’s chances died with the Celtic tiger. My bet for last weekend would have come off only for a bad refereeing blunder by David Coldrick in the big game in Ulster between Tyrone and Down. Coldrick’s failure to issue a black card to Conor Maginn for the most obvious black card since the rule was implemented resulted in Down staging a Herculean comeback after been seven points behind with only 20 minutes remaining, and Maginn scored one of the Down goals. The game of course ended level. For the life of me I cannot figure out the Ulster council’s decision to replay the fixture on Saturday evening clashing with the Champions League final, as it will take a few thousand from the attendance.
It was good to watch Gooch Cooper on the Sunday game and even nicer to hear him single out Keith Higgins as one of the best corner backs that has marked him. It should put to bed the theory of Higgins playing as a forward. I found it interesting there wasn’t a Dub or a Tyrone player mentioned by Cooper, maybe because of the extra special attention he received every time he played against Tyrone.