Well lads, how did ye get over the Christmas? (And before any member of the fairer sex starts to get antsy, I use that term – lads, that is – in its Mid-West context, in that it incorporates all bipeds, regardless of gender). Now that Santie has fecked off back to the tundra for another year, we’ve only got the New Year celebrations to get through before inter-county action resumes once again. Our opening FBD match – away to NUIG, at their ground in somewhere called Dangan – takes place this coming Sunday (throw-in 2pm) and, as you’d expect, we’ll be fielding an experimental line-up for this first (sort of) competitive fixture in just over five months.
This article in the Mayo News gives all the details but the short version is that Ronan (on honeymoon), Trevor Howley and Seamus O’Shea (injured) and Keith Higgins (in Australia till April) are all unavailable. In addition, a number of other lads won’t feature for us in the FBD as they’ll be lining out instead for their respective third-level institutes: names mentioned here are Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett, Kieran Conroy, Tom Cunniffe, Donal Vaughan and Tom Parsons but there are sure to be others too.
This pretty much negates the FBD as any kind of worthwhile preparatory exercise for the NFL and you’d have to wonder why, after such a long period without any inter-county activity, this coming month of pre-season action is effectively rendered so meaningless. It’s not for nothing that Johnno described the FBD as a “non-event” this time last year and in that Mayo News article he says that the tournament this year “will be very experimental for us” and that “to a certain extent, it’ll be a different panel to the National League”.
In that regard, the one thing the FBD does is to give a chance to a few new lads to break into the panel. We could do with some new blood and so it’s good to see that the likes of Knockmore’s Kevin McLoughlin, Ballaghaderreen’s Stephen Drake, Barry Kelly and Barry Regan and Brian Gallagher from Claremorris all being mentioned as guys who will be given the opportunity to impress over the coming month. I don’t get to see any club activity within the county – I keep the trips west for inter-county action – and so, apart from Barry Regan, I’ve never seen any of these lads in action but those well-informed boyos on gaaboard.com seem happy with their inclusion and that’s good enough for me.
So, as we start thinking about getting revved up again for another year a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ on the terraces, where do we currently stand relative to our peers? Well, here’s Martin Breheny’s assessment of our current standing – he reckons we’re the eighth best team in the country at present. The same gent put us as low as 12th this time last year, which personally I thought was overly pessimistic, but he now reckons that we’ve since jumped four places in Gaelic football’s pecking order. I suppose that’s because our two championship defeats this year weren’t hammerings like they were in 2007 and I guess that losing by a single point to the eventual All-Ireland champions does have a certain cachet. Where will we be in this particular league table twelve months hence, I wonder?