With our opening league match now less than a week away there are a few things to get through, which I meant to do earlier on but then work intervened.
First bit of news is that Clare’s Rory Hickey will ref Sunday’s match. Checking through the archive, it looks like it’s been a while since we’ve had him doing one of our matches – the most recent one I can find is back at the start of the 2012 league campaign, when he reffed our opening NFL match that February against Laois.
Next is the story in today’s Mayo News (paper and digital version) confirming that six of the team that started in last year’s All-Ireland final won’t be available for selection to face Kildare on Sunday. Chris Barrett, Donal Vaughan, Seamus O’Shea, Alan Dillon and Cillian O’Connor have all undergone surgical procedures of one kind or another since last September and none of them are back to full fitness yet, while Tom Cunniffe is concentrating on Castlebar Mitchels’ big clash against Dr. Crokes next month.
So too, of course, are both Barry Moran and Richie Feeney (subs last September) while goalkeepers David Clarke and Kenneth O’Malley are still out of action with injuries.Then you also need to factor in that a few of the lads who saw action in the FBD, such as Mitchels’ Eoghan Reilly and Tom King and Kiltane’s Mikie Sweeney, are also indisposed due to club action while fringe players Conor Loftus and Conor O’Shea are both injured. Hence that rather lurid story in Hogan Stand that we’re down “13 or 14” players for Sunday.
The reality, of course, is that because of these absences playing places are set to open up for others. This piece in the Mayo News focuses on four lads – Shane McHale, Jason Gibbons, Cathal Freeman, Brian Gallagher – who are all set to see some serious first-team action over the coming weeks. In addition to this quartet, others who featured prominently in the recent FBD campaign – such as Kevin Keane, Brendan Harrison, David Drake, Adam Gallagher, Diarmuid O’Connor and Darren Coen, as well as the returning Tom Parsons – are sure to be in the frame too so it’s not as if we don’t have plenty of choice all over the field.
Next up, in case you haven’t been following developments regarding Club ’51, you might want to know that they’ve arranged a pre-match meet-up in Newbridge at the Liffey Arms on Main Street – full details here. I might try and stick my head in the door there myself if time permits ahead of throw-in at St. Conleth’s Park on Sunday.