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Mayo manager James Horan has named six players who will make their championship debut on Sunday in London. The game against the exiles will be Horan’s maiden championship contest in the Bainisteoir’s bib. The half dozen who will make their first championship starts are Robert Hennelly in goal, full back Alan Feeney, and his brother Richie Feeney at wing back. The midfield pairing of Jason Gibbons and James Kilcullen will also be making their first championship start, while Jason Doherty, whose goal-getting ability lit up Mayo’s National Football League campaign, has unsurprisingly been given the number 15 shirt for the championship opener.
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.
JobFit, a new local initiative to support people to upskill or retrain and get a job or move on to further education or training, was officially launched today (Friday October 22) by Mayo manager James Horan and Mayor Ger Deere in a celebration event in the Harlequin Hotel, Castlebar.
When the final whistle is blown in McHale Park on Sunday, one team in white will be celebrating claiming the intermediate championship and promotion to the senior championship for next year. But will it be the white and green men from Burrishoole or the white and black clad side from the Gaeltacht in Tourmakeady.
The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning it's hard to tell exactly which it was, but after a long drawn out saga James Horan was the last man left standing when decision was finally made. After months of talk, chatter, sure things and favorites it was the Ballintubber man who came through after the chase rounded the last corner. The guessing game was finally over when the white smoke puffed out from the new stand in McHale Park and the two time All Star was unveiled as the man to lead Mayo into the future and towards what everyone hopes will be a bright new direction.
Former Mayo manager John Maughan ruled himself out of the running for the vacant Mayo senior managers job late on Thursday evening. The Crossmolina native who three times guided Mayo the All Ireland senior final confirmed to the Mayo Advertiser that he would not be going forward to the interview stage of the process, he told the Advertiser that he was very interest in the job, but following a discussion with chairman of the county board on Thursday he decided not to pursue his interest in the position any further.
A week, they say, is a long time in politics. A week in football can be an eternity. Wee James McCartan was being championed as the Messiah last week before the final, the man who resurrected the fortunes of a Down side whose season was full of mediocrity up until the back door stage. He was being hailed as the man who re-energised his troops after they were beaten in the Ulster championship by Tyrone. In fairness, his Down side were liberated once they went in through the back door to begin their tour of the country and there was an incremental improvement in each and every performance as they progressed towards last Sunday’s final. This week McCartan’s performance as manager is being scrutinised in great detail with many in his native county questioning some of his decision-making on the line. I can understand why, as a narrow defeat normally means a huge post-mortem of the losing team’s performance. Before last Sunday’s match everyone suggested that the midfield sector was going to be crucial. It was generally perceived that if Down could manage a supply of decent ball into their pacey forwards, they would be in with a mighty chance of success. Last Sunday they were annihilated in this crucial sector. Cork won 70 per cent of the kick outs and the scale of their dominance was key to their triumph. The Down goalkeeper, Brendan McVeigh, on the other hand, never varied his kickouts throughout the afternoon and it does beg the question why he persisted in making heroes out of both Nicholas Murphy and Aidan Walsh. A more puzzling decision was the substitution of Paul McComiskey with 15 minutes remaining on the clock. He was playing brilliantly all afternoon, kicking three points and giving his opponent the run around. That decision left many perplexed.
When I got involved managing teams a number of years ago, I was occasionally like a headless chicken running up and down the line, cajoling players, kicking every ball, often shouting at backs and forwards to get out in front, telling players where to kick the ball, etc. I recall coming home from some games totally wrecked. In fact I often came home years earlier having played a match feeling much fresher. Managing a team can milk you dry. Thankfully, and I am sure much to the relief of the players I am involved with, I have calmed down a little in recent years. But for some strange reason, I found myself getting rather excited and agitated on the line last Sunday. Crossmolina are trying to win the senior league in order to take something positive out of our season. We had a home league game against Ballina Stephenites and after the first fifteen minutes I realised that this was a game we were desperately trying to lose. We were playing absolute crap! One of our players had celebrated his 21st the night before and I could see that a number of others had helped him with the celebration. We eventually got our act together though and just about managed to hang on and win the match by two points. It was mediocre stuff, but at this stage of the season, we would be happy to pick up two points from our remaining two matches and win the league.
Tomorrow evening, Wednesday August 4, Mayo will make the trip to Sean Mac Diarmada Park in Carrick on Shannon to take on Leitrim in the semi final of the Connacht u21B hurling championship. Castlebar’s James Lowe will captain the side from centre half back for the game that throws in at 7pm.
A Saturday just after midday may not have the feel of championship football, but that’s what it will be for the Mayo minors tomorrow. After overcoming Roscommon, Leitrim, and Galway to claim their third Connacht title in a row, the next stop on the train is Hyde Park and meeting with Offaly. The midlanders were surprised in the Leinster final, where Longford put in a match winning display against a team who had beaten them by 22 points earlier in the championship in Leinster (which has a backdoor, unlike the Connacht championship). Mayo manager Tony Duffy has been working hard to ensure his side do not go into the game complacent after winning the Connacht title. “We’ve had three tough championship games so far, we beat Roscommon, Leitrim, and Galway by only a handful of scores each time. We may have been the better sides in those games, but it was always close enough that the lads knew it was championship football and had to concentrate all the time. They [Offaly] are a big physical side, I think they were caught on the hop in the Leinster final by Longford after beating them by 22 points back in April. I’m sure their pride has been really hurt by that defeat and that they’ll have one big kick in them to prove themselves and we could be the side on the end of that kick on Saturday. It’s about us being able to handle it and play our own game.”