At last – here’s the team for our NFL opener

Johnno has at last, according to Setanta, named the team to face Derry in our opening Division 1 NFL clash up in Celtic Park tomorrow evening. Here it is:

D Clarke; C Moran, BJ Padden, L O’Malley; C Barrett, T Howley, K Higgins; S O’Shea, P Gardiner; J Gill, A Dillon, M Mullins; C Mortimer, A O’Malley, A Moran.

Not too much in the line of experimentation there, you’d have to say. Clarkie is the only Ballina man to play (there was probably some dispensation granted in his case), BJ is at full-back, with Conor Moran getting his first competitive start for the county since the John Maughan era and Liam O’Malley in the other corner. It doesn’t look like a formidable last line of defence.

In contrast, the half-back line looks far stronger, with Chris Barrett making his senior competitive debut on the right flank with Trevor Howley in the middle and Keith Higgins on the left. That’s a line that could do well.

Midfield and the head-scratching resumes. Seamus O’Shea is raw (but needs the experience – this is an experiment that makes some sense) while Peadar Gardiner isn’t an inter-county midfielder but has performed okay there in the FBD. In Ronan’s absence, he’s also captain on the night. I can’t see us dominating this sector but I assume that James Gill, at right-half forward, will also be operating round the middle. Barry Moran is likely to be on the bench, providing us with a few more options.

Mickey Mullins gets a deserved debut at left-half forward and then, with Dillon, Mort and Andy Moran largely picking themselves, Austie’s selection at full-forward is probably the only other talking point. I suppose if he’s to play anywhere, then no.14 is that place, with the brief to shoot on sight. Shoot on sight. Not fuck around, dither and then shoot.

If one were to compare it with a few other recent selections, I’d reckon it’s closer to Eddie O’Sullivan’s approach than to Fabio Capello’s. Though not quite as frustratingly conservative as Eddie’s. If you take account of the absence of the Ballina lads, the changes from last year register only a minor ripple on the tweakometer. So much for Johnno’s supposed rip-it-up-and-start-again approach for 2008.

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