That report in the Mayo News that was mentioned in the comments earlier on is here and it confirms that further changes to the starting fifteen are certain to be made for Sunday’s trip to Celtic Park.
With the U21s starting their Connacht championship campaign in a week’s time, it’s no surprise that Stephen Coen, Patrick Durcan and Diarmuid O’Connor – all of whom started against Monaghan last Sunday and went on to perform strongly – have been released from senior duties for this coming Sunday. Michael Hall, an unused sub against Monaghan, has also been freed up to join the U21 squad, which, of course, already features senior players Adam Gallagher and Morgan Lyons.
That piece also solves the mystery of what happened to Donal Vaughan last Sunday, the Ballinrobe man having failed to reappear for the second half. It turns out Donie’s got a hamstring injury and so he’s out for the Derry game as well. That means that Sunday’s team will show at least four changes from the side that started against Monaghan. So who is likely to come in?
The obvious replacement for Patrick Durcan at wing-back is Colm Boyle. Not a bad replacement, you’d have to say – Boyler got stuck in well in the second half the last day and I’d say he must be itching for a starting slot at this stage. He came on at centre-back last Sunday, though, when Stephen Coen pushed up to midfield after the restart and with Stephen out for Derry, Colm could get the nod at 6. If he does, David Drake – an unused sub the last day – could come in on the wing. A less likely choice – but one that could work fine – would be to field Ger Cafferkey at centre-back.
Danny Kirby for Donie at midfield seems an obvious swap. It’s incredible (but it’s true) that Danny’s appearance off the bench last Sunday was his first ever League appearance for the county and his positive showing then surely merits a full debut in Celtic Park.
Up front, Diarmuid O’Connor could be replaced by Alan Freeman, with the Aghamore man coming back in at corner-forward. Jason Doherty could then switch back out to his more usual position at wing-forward, which was where he played the last day. But it’s also true that both Jason and Diarmuid foraged back deeply against the Farneymen, contributing to defence as well as attack, so if it’s a more deep-lying replacement that’s wanted, then Micheál Forde – who came on for Kevin McLoughlin the last day – could well be in line to make his full League debut up in the Walled City.
Finally, that Mayo News piece also reports that the current squad of 37 will be trimmed further, down to 32, for this year’s championship campaign. A few tough calls had to be made in undertaking the initial cuts last month and one suspects it won’t be any easier for Pat and Noel to tell another five lads that they’re surplus to requirements for the summer months.
With Cathal Carolan, Shane McHale and Richie Feeney all recuperating from injury and yet to feature this year, and several others – such as Chris Barrett (whom I spotted last Sunday with his ankle in a cast), Brendan Harrison, Jason Gibbons, Tom Parsons, Alan Dillon, Michael Conroy, Evan Regan and Andy Moran – due to return from injury prior to the end of the League campaign the scramble for places in the championship squad could well be manic enough. That’s tough on the lads themselves but from a supporters’ perspective it’s exactly the kind of competition you’d want to be seeing heading into the summer’s action.