FORWARD MOVES Mayo’s Evan Regan is pictured in action against Sligo last Sunday in the FBD Connacht League in Ballina. Pic: Sportsfile
1 Eoin O’Donoghue
THE teak-tough corner-back from Belmullet will be hoping that this is the year he can really start to stake a claim for a place in the Mayo team.
O’Donoghue was very impressive for Mayo’s Under 21s on their All-Ireland winning run in 2016 and was called into the 2017 championship panel.
But he never looked like seeing action and will be hoping that one year on, he’s ready.
He started the last two FBD games, after coming back from the team holiday in Malaysia, a decent indicator he could start in Monaghan as Mayo try to plan without Messrs Higgins, Barrett, Keegan and Vaughan.
An extra meaningful option for the full-back line this summer would be greatly welcomed by Stephen Rochford.
2 Shane Nally
LIMITED game-time for the versatile Garrymore man has become a a regular stick to beat Mayo manager Stephen Rochford with.
Nally has a wand of a left foot and is capable of scoring from long-range but the manager has instead preferred the athleticism that players like David Drake and Stephen Coen bring when he looks to the bench for options in the half-back or half-forward lines.
The argument depends on where Mayo are at in a game, but Nally’s shooting ability is clear. He kicked five points last season despite only starting two games between league and championship.
He will get further chances to impress in the coming weeks with Mayo shorn of starting defenders. It’s a chance for him to show he is worthy of more championship game time than he has seen thus far.
3 Jason Gibbons
A SHOULDER injury in the championship defeat to Galway in 2016 ended Jason Gibbons’ season. Last year it was Stephen Rochford who did so but, as the summer went on, it was clear that Mayo were not blessed with strength in depth in the middle of the field.
Gibbons was, we felt, a player Mayo could have employed off the bench in the All-Ireland Final.
Now it’s up to the Ballintubber man to prove that he is indeed worth a place in Mayo’s plans for championship.
With Seamie O’Shea expected to miss most of the league through injury, and Tom Parsons currently out of the country on honeymoon, Gibbons has a window to impress.
4 Brian Reape
THE Moy Davitts star has been one of the brightest forwards to emerge from Mayo’s underage ranks in recent years.
A member of the Mayo senior championship panel in 2016 while still only 20, Reape stepped back last year and headed to the States.
He led Moy Davitts to an Intermediate title when he came back and will be hoping to take the most of the opportunity to step up to the top level in the coming weeks.
He’s likely to get his chance to shine and, as we saw in the FBD game against Galway against highly-rated Galway full-back Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh, Reape can be erratic and excellent in equal measure.
It may not happen for him immediately, but Mayo’s management would be thrilled if he stepped up to the mark this Spring.
5 Evan Regan
THERE are a handful of players from last year’s championship panel who have to be looking over their shoulders nervously before the start of the league.
Stephen Rochford has a panel of nearly 60 players just now and, while many of them will not make the cut, if a few do start to put their hand up, Rochford will be looking to see whose places they will take from the existing panel.
The Stephenites forward has been given plenty of game-time in recent years and will admit he had a frustrating time last year.
After scoring from play early on against Monaghan in the first round of the league, Regan went on to miss his next 12 shots at goal in league and championship.
It’s a run he needs to end soon and, by all accounts, his lively showing onw Sunday against Sligo on his home pitch in Ballina indicates a man ready and willing to give it another lash.