ALMOST five months to the day after Mayo’s championship campaign came flying off the rails last August at Croke Park, their 2010 season will begin in the more humble surroundings of Garrymore next Sunday.
It will be very much the traditional start to a New Year for Team Mayo with NUI, Galway (yet again) providing the opposition in the opening round of the FBD Connacht League.
As usual for this annual fixture, Mayo’s line-up next weekend is likely to be very experimental with five of the team that started last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final unavailable for selection.
Kenneth O’Malley, Ger Cafferkey and Aidan Kilcoyne are all on the injured list while David Heaney (not included in the panel) and Alan Dillon (travelling) are also absent.
With less than five weeks remaining to Mayo’s opening NFL match against Galway, John O’Mahony will be hoping that some new players can force their way into his plans for later in the season.
“The FBD League is preparation for the National League, first and foremost,” he told The Mayo News. “We haven’t made much of an impression on the FBD in recent years but we’ll see what happens.
“The fact that Freshers aren’t allowed to play Sigerson football this year has definitely helped us. It means that the likes of Aidan O’Shea and Neil Douglas are in our panel. The game we’re really looking at though is the first round of the National League against Galway.”
Next weekend’s opponents, NUI, Galway, are also likely to have one eye on the future with next month’s Sigerson Cup match against the winners of UCC and DIT looming large on the horizon.
Their manager Eoin O’Donnellan will also be bringing a number of inter-county regulars to South Mayo and his squad is backboned by the likes of Gareth Bradshaw and Sean Armstrong (Galway), Kieran Conroy and Jason Doherty (Mayo), John Connellan and David Duffy (Westmeath), Peter Domican, David O’Gara and Conor Devaney (Roscommon), and Neil Ewing and Shane Stenson (Sligo).
The fact that NUI, Galway have won the last two meetings of these teams in the competition also means that a home win next Sunday would make a nice change.
However, Mayo’s lack of collective training, and the presence of some new faces, means that it will be easier said than done.
“The lads were on individual programmes all through the closed season and we started collective training last Saturday,” explained John O’Mahony. “We had planned to play Athlone IT in a challenge game in Ballyhaunis but that was cancelled due to frost and we had a practice game ourselves instead in Lacken.
“Five or six of the lads that impressed in the trial matches are included in our FBD panel and we had a look at a lot of other guys too last weekend. This is a way of giving fellas an incentive and letting them know they’re on our radar.”