It is going to be hard for Michael Solan and his management team to top their debut season in charge of the Mayo U21s having brought last year's crop of new stars right to the top of the game and claiming the All Ireland U21 title in Ennis against Cork at the end of the spring.
Tomorrow afternoon in Ballina the latest bunch of potential U21 stars will get their first run out for the year when they welcome Derry in round one of the North West Cup. Mayo reached the final of the competition last year where the game was drawn after extra time and those games were the foundation blocks of their successful spring assault on Connacht, and national honours.
There is plenty of consistency with last year's panel and this year's, with 18 players available again this year including six starters from that final win over Cork in Ennis. Solan will be able to call upon Matthew Flanagan in goal along with stylish Ballaghadereen full-back Seamus Cunniffe and his hard running clubmate Sharoize Akram. Another defender who is underage this year is Belmullet's Eoin O'Donoghue who was drafted into the senior set up mid-season last year by Stephen Rochford and the tigerish north Mayo defender is a serious prospect for the future.
Breaffy midfielder Matthew Ruane who picked up the man-of-the-match award in last year's U21 All Ireland final is also underage again this year and is one to watch who could make the leap to the senior set up in the not too distant future. Crossmolina attacker Fionán Duffy also started that final and will be a major attacking threat for Solan's side over the season. Brian Reape who would have started the final last year against Cork only for an injury is underage again this year, and he was involved with the senior squad last summer which shows the potential that many believe he has to be a serious player for years to come for the green and red.
Solan's U21s will have four games over the next four weekends, with games against Sligo and Donegal following up this weekend's opener and either a cup or shield final to follow up their final group game. Tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, it will all throw in, in James Stephens Park.