Club players have it tough enough to make plans without late changes

CASEY'S CALL

As a meticulous planner who maps out my summer so as there is no collision between family events, birthdays, nights out, holidays, etc, and football matches I was shocked to hear that the first round of the Mayo club championship was put back a week, 11 days before it was due to take place.

I know an unlikely chain of events occurred to require a postponement but this should have been thought of when the fixtures were drawn up. I can guarantee that quite a few club footballers have been badly put out and had alternative plans for the new dates set. Without doing much research I know that five Charlestown players had to cancel a planned break for the weekend that the games have been re-fixed for, and one Hollymount player has to loose a day from his planned foreign holiday and rebook a flight at a significant cost. A Tourmakeady player who also planned a holiday around the original fixtures is lucky that he is not in a predicament to make a decision as he is injured and ruled out for his club's game so he is free to go on his trip, otherwise a cancellation at a significant cost to the club would have ensued. I am sure there are plenty more in the same predicament. It is time to treat our club players with a little respect and set in stone the days that matches will take place so they can plan life around football. It surely cannot be that difficult.

Now we're about to get going

With the greatest respect to New York the championship proper gets under way on Sunday with a mouthwatering clash on in Ulster between Tyrone and Donegal, and of course we will find out who Mayo will be pitted against in the Connacht semi-final when Leitrim take on Galway in Carrick-on-Shannon. A few months ago I was asked to be a Connacht representative/expert (don’t all laugh at once at the same time ) in predicting the four  provincial winners, the two All-Ireland  finalists, the championship top scorer, and the All-Ireland final man of the match.

The final man of the match is a dead duck if the player you picked is not even playing in the final, obviously. It made for interesting reading as Mike Frank Russell of Kerry, Colm Parkinson of Laois, Brendan Devenney of Donegal, and Shane "Cake" Curran of Roscommon were also the “expert” predictors. Without bias I picked at the time what I felt was going to be the winning entry and for what it is worth here are my choices. The four provincial winners, Mayo, Dublin, Kerry, and Monaghan. The finalists, Kerry and Dublin with Dublin winning, and Diarmuid Connolly my man of the match in the final.

I picked Colm O'Neill from Cork as my top scorer but after Cork’s capitulation against Dublin in the league final and the few games Cork may have I am not sure that was a good choice. What also influenced my finalist’s choice is that the Connacht champions play the Leinster Champions this year (providing both win their quarter-finals ) in the semi-final and this is where the Dubs may dispose of Mayo. I really cannot see any team beating Dublin, but then again we said that this time last year as well, so there is always hope.  The other four pundits all went for Mayo, Dublin, and Monaghan in their respective provinces, with a 50/50 split between Cork and Kerry for the Munster crown.

For me what makes the most interesting read is that both Mike Frank Russell and Colm Parkinson went for Mayo to lift Sam, both have Cillian O'Connor to be top scorer (he needs to play against Galway to achieve that feat ) while Russell has Donal Vaughan to be the final man of the match, Parkinson has opted for Mayo power house Aidan O'Shea to win the accolade. Wouldn’t it be sweet if either of them was correct? One thing I could say for certain is that if your team has the championship top scorer and the final man of the match, they will be the All-Ireland champions. Shane Curran has pretty much the exact selection as me except he has Cork to win Munster and James O'Donoghue to be top scorer.  After listening to the Sunday Game and Sunday Sport preview on Radio One last weekend, it seems all the Dubs have to do is turn up. They are a measly 1/6 to win the provincial title and a miserable 6/4 to win the All-Ireland. I do not remember such ridiculous odds offered for a team before. I’m sure Kerry will have a lot to say as All-Ireland champions but it is extremely difficult to win one title, never mind do it back to back. However with the returning Gooch Cooper, Tommy Walsh, Paul Galvin, and player of the year James O'Donoghue, they look to have serious fire power but I do not think their defence will cope with the Dublin forward line. Hopefully we don’t get to see such an outcome and Mayo are there come final day. A €10 accumulator on my four provincial winners will get you back €114.

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