NAILING down a place in the team will be the first objective of the new Mayo senior football captain, Kevin O’Neill.
Speaking exclusively to The Mayo News last night, the 33 year old admitted that he was delighted to have been chosen to wear the armband but stressed that it brings no guarantees.
“My intention will be to play, make the team, lead by example... just the same as everyone else,” said O’Neill. “I’ll be fighting for a place and that’s my first objective. Nobody is guaranteed that.
“I suppose maybe I was chosen because I’m there so long with Mayo and I have a fair bit of experience. I’m also based in Dublin and a lot of the lads are up here at the moment so I guess it’s a way of keeping things together when we’re training during the week.”
Mayo manager John O’Mahony informed O’Neill of the management’s decision on Sunday at a challenge match against Louth which Mayo won. Peadar Gardiner was named as vice-captain for the coming season.
“We felt that it was the best decision in the context of where Mayo are right now,“ O’Mahony told The Mayo News. “Kevin had a brilliant year last year, the younger lads need a leader, and Kevin is an outstanding leader. The same applies to Peadar as vice-captain. They fit perfectly into the roles of pulling the young guys along.”
O’Neill also confirmed that he will be playing his club football with Na Fianna in Dublin again for the coming season. He played his first game of 2007 against Louth last weekend after missing the FBD League with a rib injury and revealed that he is looking forward to the new season.
“Johnno’s appointment was a huge one in terms of me coming back. The fact that the likes of David Heaney, Jimmy Nallen, Ciaran McDonald and David Brady came back too was a factor.
“There’s definitely a sense of unfinished business and no stone will be left unturned in terms of improving on last year. Maybe in the past we might have been depending a little bit too much on one or two individuals but the responsibility will be spread on more fellas this year.”
O’Mahony was also keen to avoid any talk of an All-Ireland Final rematch with Kerry, who are also under a new manager now in Pat O’Shea.
“Whatever the result on Sunday the emphasis for us is on getting a performance. The result, outside of the two points on offer, won’t be a major factor.
“Sunday has no relevance to the past. Of course playing the All-Ireland champions is huge motivation and we will be striving might and mane to win every game we play. But based on the All-Ireland there is a big gap to be made up.”
Mayo will name their team for the game later in the week. Definitely out of contention is Ciaran McDonald who is nursing a back injury. Ronan McGarrity (Achilles tendon), Keith Higgins (groin) and Pat Harte are all rated as “50-50”.