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3 questions for James Horan to ponder


A SPECIAL MOMENTMayo manager James Horan is congratulated by his daughter, Anna, after the final whistle in Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC win over Donegal.  Pic Conor McKeown

Edwin McGreal

What team does he start with?

SO many questions. Who replaces the injured Jason Doherty? Kevin McLoughlin might be the obvious call, but the answer also depends on if James Horan is willing to play the two O’Shea’s at midfield.
Eoin O’Donoghue impressed when he came on for Keith Higgins the last day. Might Horan keep the two of them and play with eight defenders, two of whom on marking jobs out the field? Or does another defender lose out?
Does Darren Coen start after an indifferent performance against Donegal? It was decision-making and execution that scuppered him – he was still winning ball out in front.  
Saturday’s game was ideal for Andy Moran if there’s no longer 70 minutes in him. Brought on before half-time and still going strong at the end. Mayo need him finishing a game rather than playing the first 50 minutes.
Much will also depend on players injured the last day. Do any of Diarmuid O’Connor, David Clarke or Donie Vaughan come into the mix for starting berths? Might Tom Parsons even be an option?
Mayo are unpredictable in so many ways and team selection can now certainly be added to that mix.

What will he do at midfield?
AGAINST Donegal, the O’Shea brothers bullied and dominated the middle of the field.
On a wider Croke Park with a stronger and more mobile Dublin midfield, will James Horan opt for the same partnership?
Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley are a good level up from Hugh McFadden and Jason McGee.
Much depends on how ready Matthew Ruane would be. If he is fit to start, he might well be pitched in. It could lead to Aidan O’Shea moving to the forty to fill the gap likely to be left by Jason Doherty. Or, despite playing so well the last day, Seamie O’Shea could be held in reserve. Mayo are fortunate in one sense that they have the depth to be even considering such a move.
Were either or both of Diarmuid O’Connor or Donie Vaughan fit to start, they could come into the mix too.

What are his defensive match-ups?
AGAINST admittedly weaker opposition, Dublin’s forward line has looked near invincible. Mayo have done very well in match-ups in the past but Dublin are evolving. Brian Howard and Niall Scully are new – Scully came on at the end of the 2017 final; Howard has never faced Mayo in championship football.
Con O’Callaghan has developed considerably, both physically and as a footballer from the significant talent he was in 2017 while Paul Mannion looks like a player who can beat a team on his own at times. Then there’s the small matter of Ciarán Kilkenny and Dean Rock.
Fresh from his job on Ryan McHugh, could Paddy Durcan be further forward again on another star wing-back, Jack McCaffrey? Or will he be needed closer to Mayo’s goal?
Will Lee Keegan renew his rivalry with Ciarán Kilkenny? Who goes on Paul Mannion and Con O’Callaghan? Who might be the best men to go deep with Scully and Howard?
Mayo have options and flexibility in who can go where.
For what it is worth we can see Keith Higgins or Paddy Durcan at half-forward on Jack McCaffrey, Lee Keegan on Ciarán Kilkenny, potentially Durcan or Brendan Harrison on Con O’Callaghan, and either Harrison or Chris Barrett on Paul Mannion.
It will be extremely intriguing – and key – who James Horan assigns where.

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