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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.
It’s a sort of homecoming on Saturday evening for Mayo manager James Horan and his captain Alan Dillon. Mayo will take on Offaly in their last challenge game ahead of the championship throw in on Sunday fortnight in Ruislip against London. The challenge game has been organised to mark the official opening of the new €1 million development by Ballintubber GAA Club which has redeveloped the pitch and installed an Astroturf pitch along with redevelopment of the resource centre. Mayo will face down against Offaly at 5pm, and the game will be proceeded by the Horan Cup final between Ballintubber and Kilcock from Kildare at 2pm. An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, is expected to be on hand to perform the official opening at 4pm.
The Mayo junior team will go in search of a place in the Connacht Junior Championship final this evening when they host Roscommon in the semi final of the competition in Ballyhaunis. John Kelly’s side will be facing into their second game in seven days’ after they saw off the challenge of Leitrim in a close fought encounter in Aghamore a week ago. Mayo had only two points to spare over a Leitrim side managed by former Mayo senior manager Mickey Moran in the east Mayo venue. Swinford’s Colin Dempsey was the main man for Mayo bagging a personal haul of 1-8 from Mayo’s total of 1-15 on the night.
The Mayo senior hurling team go into this weekend staring elimination from the championship straight in the face. Last weekend they opened their account in the Christy Ring Cup with a defeat against Wicklow.
Five players were let go from the Mayo senior football panel this week, but Mayo manager James Horan was keen to stress that the door is still open for all who were let go. “We let some of the lads go this week, five in total,” he said. “They were Tom Parsons, Aidan Kilcoyne, Mark Ronaldson, Barry Moran, and Brian Benson. We’re aiming to have a solid 30-man panel but it is by no means closed off. There are six rounds of club games before we play London and we’ll be at all those games and we’ll be watching all the guys and they can come back into consideration.” Horan also confirmed that both Donal Vaughan and Trevor Howley, neither of whom has featured yet this year as they work their way back from injury, will continue to be involved with the panel.
Just under a year ago Mayo travelled to Pairc Ui Chaoimh to take on Cork in the final group game in division one of the National Football League and came away with a 0-16 to 0-11 win and a place in the final of the competition. Only a few weeks later both sides squared up again in Croke Park and from the minute the ball was thrown in that day both teams’ seasons veered off in very different directions, Mayo’s ending on a Saturday evening in Longford eight weeks after that league final defeat and Cork’s on the final day with the ultimate prize.
Galway supporters left Tuam Stadium on Sunday afternoon with leaden hearts. The players and the management team must also have been mortified by the second-half collapse which was of epic proportions.
This Sunday at Tuam Stadium many Galway supporters will have their first opportunity to see Tomas O' Flatharta's team in the flesh when they face neighbours Mayo in the NFL division one fixture.
Just over six months since Mayo last played a senior inter-county game the road is opening up in front of them for another year. On Sunday in Ballinamore in Leitrim the newest version of the Mayo senior team will take to the field under the guidance of James Horan for the first time. Since his appointment at the end of September, Horan has only been able to run his eye over his new charges a handful of times, the last time last weekend in a series of inter-squad challenge games and previous to that in a number of trial games in November.