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James Horan has rung the changes ahead of Sunday’s Connacht Championship clash with Galway in McHale Park. The Ballintubber club man has made a total of six changes to the starting 15 from the side that narrowly avoided being eliminated from the provincial championship at the hands of the exiles in London last month. In defence back come into the team Keith Higgins who missed out against London due to injury and Trevor Mortimer at wing back. Horan has also opted for a whole new look midfield, with Breaffy duo and brothers Aidan and Seamus O’Shea manning the key sector of the field where they are expected to line up against Finian Hanley and Joe Bergin in the middle of the park. Kevin McLoughlin comes into the side in the half forward line alongside team captain Alan Dillon and Andy Moran, while Cillian O’Connor will make his first championship start for Mayo alongside Alan Freeman and Jason Doherty in the full forward line.
I didn’t travel to Ruislip last weekend to see Mayo’s opener in the Connacht championship. I am glad I didn’t. I did, however, listen to the coverage in its entirety on the radio. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I had a knot in my stomach for most of the match. I had an uneasy feeling that we were going to be beaten and I was considering the type of damage a defeat would cause to the future of Mayo football. Andy Moran, Mayo’s vice captain, is credited with a post-match statement that Mayo players aren’t working hard enough. Do the players realise that once they pull on a Mayo jersey they have a responsibility to themselves, and also to the county, to work hard? In the past lesser players were capable of standing up for themselves and the county whenever they were pressed. There was invariably a manliness about the majority of players picked to represent this county. I, like many others, am a fiercely proud Mayo man. I love this county and I love football. The majority of my close friends within this county are football people. They, like me, are genuinely saddened by the pitiful nature of the performance(s) of the Mayo senior team, not just last Sunday but in recent times.
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.
In the coming days our television screens are going to be hit with a disturbing but extremely important message about children’s rights.
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.
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.
The bookmakers have it that it will be a clash of north against south for the Moclair cup come next month, and while that may be where the money is going, it would be a foolish man who is counting out the chances of the men from the west ahead of Sunday.
Ballintubber v Ballina