READY TO GO Tom Parsons lined out with Mayo last weekend and could start a competitive game with the county for the first time in almost 20 months next Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
JUST over five months after the curtain came down on Mayo’s marathon 2019 season, the county’s flagship football team will write the first entry in their 2020 diary next Sunday.
The FBD League signals the start of the annual journey for Mayo and their supporters with the prospect of a short hop to MacHale Park in Castlebar for a bit of shadow-boxing with Galway likely to bring the crowds out in droves.
Since we last saw Mayo in action, Ger Cafferkey and Andy Moran have both retired, a raft of young prospects and 20-somethings have been called in to lift weights and have a crack at breaking into the league squad, and Ciaran McDonald has come on board as a coach/selector.
Daniel Forde has also left the management team while James Burke is set to be given more coaching responsibility after impressing James Horan in his debut season.
Martin Barrett from Kiltane, Martin Lally from Ballintubber and Belmullet native Martin McIntyre will also form part of what Horan terms his ‘support team’ for the months ahead.
By all accounts everyone in the Mayo set-up has been working hard to ensure that they are ready to hit the ground running when the National League throws-in against Donegal in Ballybofey in less than three weeks’ time.
However, the squad that togs out for next Sunday’s Connacht League semi-final against the Tribesmen is likely to be a mixture of ‘something old and something new’ due to a combination of injuries, college commitments and unavailability.
An experimental Mayo line-up beat NUI, Galway in a challenge game last Sunday with Brendan Harrison, Michael Plunkett, Tom Parsons, Conor Loftus and Kevin McLoughlin forming an experienced spine to the team while David Clarke, Stephen Coen, Diarmuid O’Connor and All Star defender Paddy Durcan also featured at various stages.
Fergal Boland also lined out, 24 hours after playing with Tooreen in Saturday’s All-Ireland Intermediate club championship semi-final defeat in Tullamore.
The Mayo management also used the opportunity to take a look at the likes of David Kenny (who also hurls with Tooreen), Ballina’s Padraig O’Hora and Mikey Murray, Brian Reape from Moy Davitts and Ballintubber duo Bryan Walsh and Brian Murphy.
All of the aforementioned players could feature again next weekend but Mayo will definitely be without the likes of Matthew Ruane, Eoin O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy (NUI, Galway); James Carr, Fionn McDonagh and Ryan O’Donoghue (University of Limerick); Stephen Coen (UCD), Oisin McLaughlin (Trinity College) and Ben Doyle (Maynooth University) who are all on Sigerson Cup duty on Sunday.
Oisin Mullin, who is also in NUI, Galway is also lining out with Kilmaine in the All-Ireland Junior championship on Saturday; while Aidan O’Shea, who is abroad on holidays, will also be absent next weekend.
A win for Mayo would see them qualify for the FBD League Final for the first time since 2012 against Roscommon or Leitrim on Sunday, January 19.
But Galway and their new manager Padraig Joyce will be looking to put down a marker ahead of the counties’ next meeting in the National League on Sunday, March 15 in Salthill.
Here we go again…
FBD League Semi-Final
Mayo v Galway
Sunday, January 12
Castlebar at 2pm