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Qualifier questions for Mayo squad


LONG LAY-OFF Mark Moran last played for Mayo in November 2020.  Pic: Sportsfile

Galway defeat and injuries could open door for some players

Mike Finnerty

LAST weekend Mayo were training behind closed doors while the Connacht championship carried on without them.
Far from the madding crowds, James Horan is trying to rebuild his squad’s confidence and figure out how to kickstart Mayo’s season after four defeats in their last five matches.
All this against the backdrop of an unprecedented injury crisis which has sidelined some of the team’s biggest, brightest and best players at the most important stage of the season.
All of which turns the spotlight on to the strength of Mayo’s extended squad — the exact make-up of which remains uncertain as no panel has been officially announced this year ahead of either the National League or championship.
But what we do know is that Mayo’s injury crisis threatens to derail their season and, between players being unavailable and the lack of impact off the bench against Galway last month, places are guaranteed to be up for grabs in the match-day squad for the next outing.
That will either be on Saturday, May 21 or Saturday, June 4 — depending on how the provincial semi-final results play out next weekend.
For the recent Galway game, James Horan had injury issues to contend with around the goalkeeping position, the defence, midfield and in the forwardline.
It remains to be seen how many (if any) of those injuries will have cleared up by the time the next game rolls around.
With that in mind, we have picked out five forwards who have been training with Mayo this season who either haven’t featured at all yet or very sparingly.
But perhaps opportunity is about to knock for one/some of them in the weeks ahead.

5 forwards who could yet feature

Fionan Duffy


THE Deel Rovers forward has been out of sight and out of mind all season long.
After coming through the famous ‘combine’ at The Dome before Christmas, Duffy has been part of the extended Mayo panel since and lined out against Galway in the FBD League.
However, he didn’t manage to make it into a match-day squad during the National League.
An All-Ireland minor and Under-21 winner in 2013 and 2016 respectively, Duffy does his best work for Crossmolina close to goal.
And James Horan obviously feels he has something to offer or he would have released him back to his club along with some others before the start of the championship.

Fionn McDonagh
THE unlucky half-forward hasn’t been seen in a Mayo jersey since tearing his hamstring during the first half of the National League defeat to Tyrone back on March 19.
It was just the latest injury setback to hit McDonagh who has missed so much football over the last few seasons.
There is no doubt that if he could rediscover his best form — the sort we saw flashes of  during NUI Galway’s Sigerson Cup campaign earlier in the year — then he would be a huge addition to the Mayo attack.
It’s seven weeks now since that he suffered that hamstring injury against Tyrone, so hopefully he will be back in the frame for the Qualifiers.

Conor McStay
Ballina Stephenites
THE presence of the talented Ballina playmaker in Mayo’s extended squad was another well-kept secret until he popped up among the substitutes for the National League Final defeat to Kerry.
Conor, whose father Paul and uncle Kevin both wore the Green and Red in the past, has been one of the Stephenites’ best forwards in recent seasons and impressed during the selection ‘combine’ back in December.
However, a broken ankle at the start of the year stalled his progress before Mayo’s injury crisis around the league final led to him being named as an unused sub at Croke Park.

Mark Moran
BELIEVE it or not but the young forward last played for Mayo in November 2020 when he came on during the second half of the Connacht Final win over Galway.
Since then he’s missed two entire National League campaigns and last season’s championship due to injury and associated rehab programmes.
However, he has been part of James Horan’s squad since the start of this year and it’s understood that he has been back in full training for the last few months.
But apart from making a brief appearance on the field during the warm-up before Mayo played Tyrone back in March, he hasn’t featured or been named in any match-day squads.
Could he make his fifth senior appearance in the Qualifiers?

Pearse Ruttledge
THE hard-working wing-forward was a surprise inclusion in the Mayo squad for the National League and, despite not playing any minutes, he did enough to convince James Horan on the training ground that he deserved to stay involved for the championship.
It looks like Ruttledge is a long-term project and there is no doubt that he will benefit from being exposed to the sort of strength and conditioning work overseen by Conor Finn.
Interestingly, the two-time Mayo SFC winner was among the subs for Mayo’s first National League game against Donegal on January 30 but hasn’t made a match-day squad since.


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