MAYO Junior football manager John Kelly has bolstered his squad ahead of next Saturday’s All Ireland FC semi-final against Lancashire by calling up four players.
Castlebar Mitchels goalkeeper Rory Byrne, Ballyhaunis attacker John Prenty, Louisburgh teenager Kevin Gibbons and Davitts’ Josh Ronayne have been included for the trip to Manchester next weekend.
However, Ballinrobe forward Alan Murphy, who has scored 3-20 in three Mayo SFC games this season, has been unable to accept Kelly’s invitation as he is due to play soccer with Mervue Utd in the League of Ireland next weekend.
Mayo’s squad has been hit by injuries to Davitts Aiden McTigue (foot), who scored 1-2 in the Connacht Final against Galway, and looks set to miss out next Saturday while Shane McDermott (knee) is definitely out of contention.
Incidentally, the Mayo travelling party will make the journey across the Irish Sea on the ferry on Friday ahead of their clash with the All-Britain Junior champions.
“We have 32 players on our squad and taking the ferry means we can bring all of them with us,” explained John Kelly.
“We’re leaving on Friday morning from Dublin and we expect to be over there at around 5.30pm on Friday evening.”
The winners of Saturday’s game at the Old Bedians ground will meet either Kerry or Cavan in the final.
“We’ve looked into Lancashire a small bit but we’re concentrating on our own strengths and we will worry about our own game,” the Mayo manager told The Mayo News.
“We know they will be well-organised but we know we’re good enough to win if we perform well on the day.
“Training is going really well for us. We have had two sessions a week but the intensity has picked up considerably recently. There has been fantastic commitment shown by the lads and we have played a lot of high intensity games amongst ourselves.”
This is Mayo’s first All-Ireland semi-final since 2007 and it’s been 11 weeks since their Connacht Final victory over Galway on May 20 in Roscommon.
“I think we were a bit nervous that day maybe because of a lack of competitive action,” said John Kelly as he reflected on that erratic performance.
“But we’ve worked on getting a good start and getting out of the traps quickly. Against Galway we were slow to get going but I never doubted the lads. We were creating plenty of chances but we didn’t take them early on.”
Mayo are just one step away from a first final appearance since 2001 when they were narrowly defeated by Cork.
However, their manager is under no illusions about the challenge that lies ahead in Manchester.
“Lancashire have been improving greatly over the past few years. They were just beaten by Kildare last year and we face a huge obstacle if we are to get to the final.
“I was involved with the Parke team that lost an All-Ireland Junior club quarter final against St Peters of Lancashire two years ago so I would be somewhat familiar with the set-up over there.
“It’s a huge game and it’s a great opportunity,” he added. “We’re in good condition though and we know we must have no excuses. If we’re good enough on the day we’ll win it.”
All-Ireland Junior FC Semi-Final
MAYO v LANCASHIRE
Saturday, August 4 at 2.30pm
Old Bedians, Manchester