“Work hard, that was it, simple as that. We wanted fellas to work hard.” That was the mantra to his players before the game from Mayo joint manager Pat Holmes last Sunday after his and Noel Connelly’s side had seen off the efforts of NUIG in the opening round of the FBD League.
The FBD League rarely reveals much of what will happen in the year ahead, with Leitrim winning the last two early season provincial competitions, but with this being their first run in charge of this current Mayo side, getting a winning momentum under their belts is a bonus they would have wanted.
Last Sunday’s starting 15 was a mix of the new, the tried and tested, and the returning hopefuls, with Hollymount-Carramore’s Darren McHugh, Garrymore’s Caolan Crowe, and Ballina Stephenites’ Alex Corduff all getting a taste of the action in green and red. While Shrule-Glenncorrib’s Mark Ronaldson, Castlebar Mitchels’ Neil Douglas, and Ballina Stephenites’ Evan Regan all returned to action for the county after a couple of years’ absence from the scene.
Returning faces show well
Of the new and returning faces, Douglas’ performance was the one that will have caught most attention with the Mitchels man kicking four points and covering a hell of a lot of ground before he was forced off through a knock he picked up scoring his fourth point. Douglas’ performances for Holmes in 2013 and through to last years All Ireland club final when Holmes was manager of Castlebar Mitchels gave Holmes an intimate knowledge of the Castlebar man’s abilities, and Douglas has the look of a man who really wants to take this chance.
Ronaldson finished the game with 1-1, and the Shrule-Glencorrib sharpshooter who was released from the Mayo panel by James Horan after the league in 2011 could well have thought his inter-county chance had gone. But he was one of the key men in the Holmes and Connelly u21 team that won an All Ireland title on a memorable day in Ennis nine years ago and they know first hand the abilities of the 27-year-old.
Chris Barrett is probably one of the most unlucky players in the county, with the Belmullet man showing once again he has everything necessary for the inter-county game. On Sunday he played in his most natural and best position in the half-back line, but when he is battling for a spot against the likes of Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, and Donal Vaughan it can be hard to make the spot his own. But he showed once again with an all action display, especially in the second 30 minutes that he has all the necessary ingredients. He’s also another of the u21 class of 2006 that Holmes and Connelly know well.
Some new faces expected on Sunday
As for who will line up on Sunday, Noel Connelly said after the NUIG game that we should expect a few different faces in green and red this weekend, maybe even some of the 20 new players who had been put on pre-Christmas strength and conditioning programmes. “We've let a few of the u21 fellas back into the u21 system, we had the FBD today where we had three debutants, we'll have more over the next two games at least, we'll be seeing the rest of the new guys in the panel, we've had two trial games already, so between the two trial games and the two FBD games we should be in a good position to finalise the panel or down to the late 30s until the league campaign starts.”
As for this Sunday’s opponents, IT Sligo went down to an improving Roscommon side on a score of 0-14 to 0-5 in their FBD League opener last Sunday in Strokestown. The students trailed by 0-7 to 0-1 at the break and were never really in the contest against John Evans’ team, IT Sligo are managed this year by former Donegal All Ireland winner Martin McHugh.
This Sunday’s game will see Mayo return to competitive action in James Stephen’s Park in Ballina, with throw-in at 2pm. You can catch up on all the action from Ballina on Sunday evening at www.advertiser.ie/mayo/sport