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Battle for Mayo places is on

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

Countdown begins for Mayo

THE pruning of his panel ought now to be under way as James Horan settles on the thirty players on whom he builds his trust for the championship. In a final comb of the county for overlooked potential the manager handed experimental shirts to Fergal Durkan, Conor O’Shea and Ruaidhri O’Connor against Donegal in their recent challenge.
All three justified their selection with positive performances in a tough environment, but unless injuries are picked up in the coming weeks none is likely to dislodge any of the existing panellists.
The strength of the squad would seem to stand just now at 33 following the removal of luckless Alan Feeney who had been nursing an old injury for some time. He returned to the Castlebar Mitchels team recently and has re-adapted to his full-back role with very positive performances.
No one will escape Horan’s scrutiny as he runs a rule over every individual performance over the past five months and ponders his best, balanced troupe to defend the Connacht crown over the coming weeks.
It’s an unenviable task, having to nudge from the scene players who have served him loyally, and no amount of sensitivity from the boss or encouragement will assuage the disappointment.
The defensive area offers the selectors least trouble for it is safe to say that the six defenders who lined out in the National League are, barring injury, automatic choices. So, too, are goalkeeper David Clarke and his deputy, Robert Hennelly.
Discussion about back-up resources will surround Richie Feeney, Shane McHale, Peadar Gardiner, Michael Walsh Chris Barrett and Eoghan O’Reilly.
Alan Feeney may have lost his place in the panel not only because of injury, but also because of the rise of Shane McHale as a full-back of promise in the absence of Ger Cafferkey. Nor did the Knockmore man lose any of that potential when pitted against Colm McFadden in the Donegal challenge.
Peadar Gardiner has been a fringe defender throughout the spring, and although he lacks the physical strength to root it with the Kerrys and Corks, he has experience and wisdom and timing… assets in which Mayo as a unit are in short supply.
Richie Feeney’s versatility and toughness will keep him in the panel. Chris Barrett has started only once this season… against Roscommon in the FBD league. Nothing has been heard of him since… most likely because of injury.
On that basis he will not be ready for the Connacht championship and may lose his position on the panel.
Castlebar’s Eoghan O’Reilly has given a number of honest performances as stand-in corner back and may also hold his place. So, too, Michael Walsh, the tenacious Ardnaree man.
The adaptability of Danny Geraghty has been the surprise of the league. They young Ballintubber man has aquitted himself well in what ever cameo role he has been asked to fill whether in defence or at midfield and that versatility ought to convince the handlers of his value.
Ever since Ronan McGarrity lost form, midfield has become problematical for James Horan. No one seems to know how long Aidan O’Shea is out, or how long it will take him to regain full fitness after his lay-off.
In his absence the pressure has fallen on the shoulders of Jason Gibbons and Barry Moran, but neither has performed with any real conviction. The potential of Gibbons is greater, and he has the ability to improve.
If Moran played with the verve and work rate that marked his first half performance in the Donegal challenge and in the league for his club no question marks would hang over the midfield quality of the Castlebar man.
A fully fit Seamus O’Shea, penalty specialist Pat Harte and Danny Geraghty are all worthy midfield replacements, and will be pushing for precedence.
The six forwards that lined out against Cork will hold their places. Enda Varley, Jason Doherty, Alan Freeman, Aidan Campbell, Danny Kirby, Evan Regan and Michael Forde are all obvious contenders also.
Enda Varley and Evan Regan will be battling for places. Both are corner forwards and, like Conor Mortimer, both left-footed. Regan is the lesser experienced, and when called from the bench Varley generally impresses. Therefore, Regan, who has time in his favour, may be the one to lose out.
Michael Forde is also one for the future and not just ready yet to mix it with the big guys and he, too, may be asked to bow out.
The likely 30-strong panel, therefore, is: David Clarke, Robert Hennelly, Kevin Keane, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle, Barry Moran, Jason Gibbons, Kevin McLoughlin, Andy Moran, Alan Dillon, Conor Mortimer, Cillian O’Connor, Michael Conroy, Pat Harte, Enda Varley, Danny Geraghty, Jason Doherty, Richie Feeney, Danny Kirby, Michael Walsh, Seamus O’Shea, Aidan O’Shea, Peadar Gardiner, Alan Freeman, Shane McHale, Aidan Campbell, Eoghan O’Reilly.
But the rest will never be far from the call-up.

Setting Carney’s record straight
WE received a letter from Bernie O’Hara from Swinford last week. . ‘After reading your column today, I decided to mention the following to you. Many people in Mayo use Mick Byrne’s records for GAA statistics.
Unfortunately, they do not state clearly that they only begin in 1949/50. Consequently, the information is incorrect for players in the early 1950s. For example, they state that Padraig Carney made his county senior debut in 1950 and played only 30 games, which is far from correct.
‘He first played for the Mayo senior team in 1945 at the age of 17 and scored a point with his first kick of the ball!  With regard to his great scoring record, it has to be realised that it was virtually all achieved as a centre-field player, including his nine points in the 1948 Connacht final replay. Some facts are incorrect for all the 1950/51 team...’
Thanks Bernie for putting the record straight.  I have fallen into that trap before appearing to suggest that Mayo football began only in 1950/51.
You are dead right, the stars of those years did not appear overnight, and Padraig Carney had scored at least 3-76 from close on twenty appearances before 1950. That would seem to bring his career record to around 11-175 from approx fifty appearances, playing mostly from midfield. Some achievement.

New York fail to raise gallop
THEIR remaining opponents in Connacht will be wondering how good Sligo really are following their thirty points win over New York in the preliminary round of the championship.
Manager Kevin Walsh used the game to blood a few new players, and the extent of their victory will have raised a few eyebrows in Galway and Roscommon who are concentrating on their own clash next Sunday, the winners of which take on the Yeats county in the semi-final.
My regular correspondent, Harry Dunleavy, tells me that he attended the Sligo match in Gaelic Park and was disappointed with the standard produced by the home side.
“I thought it was the worst I ever saw. Many of the regular clubs at Gaelic Park in the past would have beaten this New York team. I don’t think it was worth the 75-mile drive from where we live near the Pennsylvania border to see it. But it was a day out and my wife originally comes from a few blocks away from Gaelic Park,” said Harry.
Sligo would have hoped for tougher resistance before the semi-final but however poor New York were the Sligo challenge for honours cannot be underestimated.

Just a thought …
GALWAY venture into Hyde Park on Sunday for a showdown with old rivals Roscommon. Both managers, Alan Mulholland and Des Newton, are making their championship debuts in what ought to be a thriller.