If it has felt like an age since we all last saw the senior county team in action then, well, that’s because it has been.
Since Newbridge it’s been nowhere for us, a void that has lasted over six months. Half a bloody year, in other words.
Much has happened, of course, in the intervening period and so when, a week from now, the Mayo team take the field for the first time in 2019 it’s going to feel in large part like a new beginning. And not just because the lads will be sporting the new jersey for the first time either.
It is, I know, only the FBD, just a bit of pre-season prep ahead of the start of the League in late January. In that sense, how we get on next Sunday against Leitrim up in Carrick is neither here nor there.
Pre-season will, though, be different for us than it’s been of late. Last year and the year before the established panel members were still on their holliers in early January and so it was only from around the middle of the month onwards that the regulars starting to reappear. This year the whole panel (minus the few out injured and/or recovering from surgery) will be available for selection right off the bat.
With James Horan back in harness, it’s fair to assume that players will be keen to impress, regardless of whether or not it’s just the opening match in the FBD. Supporters, too, will be interested in seeing who gets to wear the shiny new jerseys on Sunday and which players get the opportunity to shine then.
In this regard, there’ll be particular focus on the new and less established faces James decides to deploy. In his first stint in the role, James proved adept both at uncovering new talent as well as developing peripheral players. Lee Keegan, for example, was discarded by John O’Mahony when he trimmed his squad for the 2010 championship. Recalled by James the following year, he soon blossomed to become one of our most important performers.
We’ll only get vague hints, at best, about all this on Sunday. It is just the FBD and you can be sure that management’s focus will already be fixed on the early rounds of the League, even if they’ll be well aware that victory over Leitrim will set up what would be a tasty FBD semi-final away to Galway, a match neither side would be all that keen to lose.
But, of course, we can’t start thinking about a possible January clash with the Tribesmen just yet. First there’s lovely Leitrim and, after this too long football-less lacuna for us, it will be bordering on lovely to see the lads take the field once more. Only a week now ’till Sunday.