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Being on top of the table in division one of the National Football League after only completing two games, while six of the other seven sides in the division have already played a game extra, has Mayo in good shape ahead of the visit of Down on Sunday to McHale Park.
Just like last year Mayo will square off against NUIG in the home final of the FBD League on a Friday night in McHale Park. The prize for the winners, a trip to New York in October to take on the exiles in the away final, should be enough motivation for any amateur player, but both sides have bigger fish to fry in the coming days and weeks, which will be a distraction this evening.
This evening’s meeting of Mayo and NUIG in McHale Park in the home final of the FBD League will bring together two of the men who put their name in the hat for the Mayo manager’s job last year. James Horan was the choice at the end of the search to fill the spot left vacant by John O’Mahony, but John Maughan who is now over the students was right in the running until he decided to withdraw from the race not long before the finish.
While the FBD League in January is not somewhere that you can make an solid predictions of what is to come in the year ahead, there is one thing that you can take from this year’s early season jaunt around the province at this stage, and that is that James Horan was true to his word when he said he would be giving all his players a chance to impress during the competition.
I have so little energy this evening. I am wrecked after a tough session in the gym. The penny hasn’t dropped with me yet that the body isn’t able for the kind of punishment I once subjected it to. Earlier this evening, I was happily plodding along in the gym doing my thing, when I was invited to join in with the spinning class taking place in an adjoining room. The instructor pushed us hard for almost an hour. It was an eye opener and I can now admit to myself that the old body is not what it once was. However I comforted myself when I realised that there is no point in peaking this time of year! That is not the situation however for any new potential inter-county footballer wanting to impress new managers around the country. The reality is many of those players wil not have kicked a ball in months, yet they are expected to make an impression at these trial games. That’s the way it is, and until there is a better solution it will continue that way. I had a text from Ian Rowland from Crossmolina earlier this week announcing that he was invited on to the Mayo football panel for the FBD league. Ian had a wonderful year with Crossmolina, impressing in lots of games in both the league and championship. He is a player who has improved enormously this year and I expect there is more to come from this young student. Ian was one of the players invited to participate in a trial match last Saturday morning in McHale Park. I heard he played well in the trial, kicking a number of monster points that clearly caught the eye. Incidentally, I have rarely witnessed a player anywhere in the country who can kick the ball as far as this man can. Understandably, he is thrilled to be presented with this opportunity and I am quite confident he will do well.
According to the AA route finder only 4.9 miles separate Tooreen and Ballyhaunis from each other. On Saturday afternoon Tooreen will make that short trip to face their neighbours in the county senior hurling final at 4pm. Tooreen were the standard bearers of Mayo hurling for a long time before the past decade which has seen Ballyhaunis steal their mantle as hurling kings of Mayo. The Ballyhaunis men will be appearing in their seventh final in succession and will be looking for their fifth title in six years, their four in a row bid was stopped last year by James Stephen’s Ballina, who themselves were dispatched from the competition by Tooreen last weekend in a semi-final replay.
A little over six months on since they tasted a defeat of the bitterest kind to swallow, the Mayo senior hurling side will be getting back into competitive action this weekend. With a place in the final in their grasp a late surge from Carlow saw Mayo lose their footing on their home patch, and with it a chance to make it to the final of the second tier competition. Seeing their chance to appear in the Christy Ring Cup final slip through their fingers in McHale Park against Carlow late last July will have left the Mayo squad eager to put things to right in 2009.