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Horan edging closer to his best XV


Edwin McGreal

BASED on what we’ve seen and what we know, we’d argue there’s eleven of the Mayo starting team for championship that we can confidently predict.
That’s before the Clare game of course, which is capable of changing things.
That James Horan hasn’t given a minute of game time to Rory Byrne yet indicates Rob Hennelly will be in goal.
Lee Keegan and Oisin Mullin will definitely start, and almost certainly both in the full-back line.
Paddy Durcan is the only ‘nailed on’ starter in the half-back line but we think Michael Plunkett will start there too, on the basis of three very solid outings thus far.
Even though he only returned from injury against Meath, we think that, barring any setbacks, Aidan O’Shea will start. The eternal question is where.
The need looks greater out the field than in the full-forward line, where he was last season.
Matthew Ruane has been Mayo’s best player across the three games and will certainly line out at midfield. Either O’Shea or Diarmuid O’Connor will accompany him and whoever doesn’t will be in the half-forward line, we feel.
We’d be in favour of O’Shea as a defensive midfielder, plugging the centre of defence where possible while Ruane sallies forward.
O’Connor, therefore, looks good for the half-forward line in our opinion.
Who will join him there is the $64,000 question.
First to the full-forward line. Cillian O’Connor and Tommy Conroy are certain to start in there. Ryan O’Donoghue will be in the team, but in the half-forward line if James Horan sees a starting spot for James Carr.
More than likely we see O’Donoghue in the full-forward line, possibly coming out as a false number eleven at the tip of a triangle with O’Connor and Conroy.
That leaves two spots in the half-forward line, one in the half-back line and one in the full-back line.
Returning players like Brendan Harrison and Jason Doherty will nail down two of those positions if they manage to return to the form of old.
That, of course, is a great unknown for now.
Eoin O’Donoghue, Colm Boyle, Stephen Coen and Eoghan McLaughlin are all in the mix for defensive berths too.
Kevin McLoughlin, Fionn McDonagh, Jordan Flynn, Bryan Walsh and Darren McHale are in the shake-up for the half-forward line.
Right now we’re inclined to plump for Eoin O’Donoghue, Stephen Coen, Kevin McLoughlin and Bryan Walsh but there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge yet.


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