We predict who’s going to make the sporting headlines in Mayo over the next 12 months
THE arrival of James Horan as Mayo manager means the end is nigh for some of those players who have been part of the furniture around McHale Park in recent seasons.
However, the new regime will also present plenty of opportunities for others to become central figures for 2011 and beyond. This is why we think Ballinrobe’s Donal Vaughan could see his inter-county career start to blossom.
Despite what the statistics from his first two championship campaigns might suggest, the Cork-born defender is not a corner back.
For some reason, despite a plethora of eye-catching league performances at wing back, Vaughan was given the number two shirt against Roscommon and Meath in 2009, and also spent long spells in the corner against both Sligo and Longford last year.
If anything was learned from those selection errors, it was that the 22-year-old is much more suited to the half-back line. In fact, his athleticism, attacking instinct, physique and leadership qualities mean he is tailor-made for some extra responsibility.
Vaughan was selected at midfield on the 2010 Mayo News Club Stars Team of the Year and don’t be surprised if he is pitched in at centre back or even midfield for Mayo in the months ahead. We think he will make a big impression too.
JOHN Mountney’s 92nd minute goal against Westport United back in August was crucial in ensuring that the Super League title remained in Ballina. But the former Kiltimagh/Knock United player could be in for an even more momentous year in the next 12 months.
Mountney had such a significant impact on the closing stages of Ballina Town’s season that he earned a place on the Super League Team of the Year at the Mayo League’s annual dinner-dance.
As well as his shooting ability – emphasised by that 35-year cracker against the Covies in Belleek Park – he was also key to many other goals and chances Ballina created. Great footwork and an ability to pick out a pass also mark him out as a star in the making.
But how long more can we expect to see him in action in Mayo? More than one observer has noted his skill and said simply: “He’s too good for this level”.
Mountney, who has represented the Republic of Ireland at under-16 and under-18 level, has attracted much interest from across the water. Charlton Athletic and Burnley are reported to be among the clubs in the English Championship keeping a close eye on his progress.
IF 2011 is anything like 2010, it promises to be a year to remember for Katie Rowland.
The Geesala Boxing Club member won Irish U-21 and Intermediate titles to bring her national haul to six. In between, she picked up a silver medal at the European Youth and Junior Championships in Calais, France. Indeed, the Glencastle native came within a whisker of a European title, only beaten on a 10-9 count-back in the final by her Russian opponent.
Her coach Patrick McDonagh says a shot at the Olympics shouldn’t be out of her reach, and that’s the target the boxer herself has set. It would, she says, be a dream come true to be an Olympian. At 17, she still has time on her side, and could be in her prime by the time the extravaganza heads for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
That victory in the Intermediate Championships has set her up for a shot at the National Senior Championships, and she’s also eyeing up qualifiers for the World Junior Championships. “When I put my mind to it,” she told Midwest Radio last month, “I know I can do it”. That’s the stuff bright futures are made of. Watch this space.
MAYO Community Games PRO Michael Brophy describes David Harper from Westport as “a complete all-rounder”, and it’s easy to see why.
The past 12 months have produced more than its share of highlights for the teenager. For starters, he won major titles for Westport AC both indoors (including the national under-16 1,500 metres in March) and outdoors (the boys’ Junior Great Ireland Run in April). He’s enjoyed success in cross-country, and won two medals at the national Community Games finals – finishing third in a high-class 1,500 metres race, and was a key member of the Westport side that got the bronze in the sprint relay. And that’s just part of his medal haul from 2010.
“David had a great year,” Michael Brophy commented. “He showed great promise and I think he’ll have another great year in 2011, the way he’s going. He’s matured into a very strong athlete, and I think he’s going to be a great prospect in the next two years.
“It’s very unusual to see someone pick up medals in so many disciplines – that’s the sign of a very good athlete. The stamina work he has done over the last two years is paying off.”
THE 19-year-old excelled in the Tooreen colours last year and could make the breakthrough at county level in 2011. With just five weeks before the National Hurling League starts, Mayo still have no senior manager in place, but whoever gets the job may well be anxious to get the Galway-based student on board.
Morley, a brother of Tooreen full-back Shane, played very well in the Mayo Senior Hurling Championship. Very skilful and a good strong athlete, he shone in the number six jersey during 2010.
Remarkably, Tooreen’s wait for a senior hurling title now stretches back to 2003, but young Morley has enjoyed plenty of success at underage level. He was part of the Tooreen side that won the All-Ireland Féile title in 2004, and has picked up silverware at under-14, under-16, minor and under-21 levels.
A great leader on the field, Morley is also a good footballer, and was on the fringes of Ray Dempsey’s squad when he was minor. He also occupies a half-back berth in the ‘big ball’ game, but is more often found on the wing than in the central position he fills playing hurling.