There can often be a longish lull each year between our final League match and our Championship opener. Not so this year, in light both of our run to the League final and the trip to New York. The League decider was only played a few short weeks ago but the match in Gaelic Park is now but eleven days away.
Nowadays, of course, the Championship gets going sooner in the year. The New York game used to be a scheduling outlier, taking place two weeks ahead of the start of provincial championship action back at home. This year Galway play London the same day as we line out against New York and the following weekend the first shots will be fired in Leinster and Munster.
So, in that regard, I guess it’s no surprise that yesterday the formal launch of the Connacht Senior Football Championship for 2019 took place. The event was held, as usual, at the Connacht Centre of Excellence in Bekan and it has generated a good deal of coverage today.
As you’d imagine, these are all much of a muchness. What James has to say, though, about the commitments made by players and the maturity displayed by the lads on the senior panel – which chimes with recent comments from Lee Keegan – is rather refreshing and provides some insight into his style of leadership.
Amidst those pieces there are nuggets about Tom Parsons (on the road to recovery but someone who “still has a way to go yet”), Cillian O’Connor (should feature against New York) and Seamus O’Shea (may not be ready for New York).
UPDATE: Mike Finnerty has a piece with James Horan from yesterday’s event in the Mayo News (here). Mike’s full interview with James will feature in the next edition of the Mayo News football podcast, which will be online on Monday.
Sky Sports also have a video piece with James, recorded at Bekan yesterday. You can see that here.
Separately, Edwin McGreal has a piece in the Irish Examiner today (here) where he confirms the news about the six players who were recently cut from the squad. This piece also covers the recent inclusion in the senior development panel of Micheál Schlingermann (Kiltimagh), Shairoze Akram (Ballaghaderreen), Ben Doyle (Westport), Oisin McLaughlin (Westport) and Mikey Murray (Ballina Stephenites).
Back to yesterday’s Connacht SFC launch where two other bits of news took prominence. The first was the revelation – which I’d heard whispers about some weeks back – that Damien Comer could miss the entire provincial campaign. Pieces on that story here – GAA, Irish Examiner, Irish Independent, The 42.
The Galway captain fractured his ankle over Christmas and he’s now targeting a mid-June return date. This may mean he’ll feature off the bench in the Connacht final – on the reasonable assumption that Galway will get by the might of London and Sligo first – but even that sounds like a stretch at this stage.
The second major story emanating from Bekan yesterday was the announcement that Connacht GAA will shortly begin the construction of an air dome playing facility on the site with completion expected in December. This story is covered by GAA, RTÉ, Sky Sports, Irish Independent, The 42, Balls.ie.
Hailed yesterday by provincial secretary John Prenty as the biggest sports air dome of its kind in the world, the €3 million project will be 150 metres in length by 100 metres in width, accommodating within it a pitch almost the size of MacHale Park. It’ll be 26 metres in height and so will provide another landmark on the East Mayo horizon to go with nearby Knock basilica.
Funding for the project includes a major cash injection from the Government, in the form of a €2.1 million grant through the Rural Regeneration Fund, and John Prenty was adamant yesterday that no ongoing financial burden for clubs or counties within the province will be created from the venture.
The facility will mainly be used for coaching, games development and matches, focusing particularly on schools and juvenile activities, where bad weather can so often be an impediment. It sounds like an ideal solution in that regard, one that you’d imagine will get a serious amount of usage.
The dome could even, John Prenty reckoned, see action in the FBD League, though the 600-seat capacity planned for it falls well short of the usual diehard turnout for Mayo’s pre-season fixtures. In that instance, the scramble to get in could turn out to be like America at home.
Talking of America, let’s finish on that note. New York’s manager Justin O’Halloran, speaking to the Irish Examiner (here), reckons that “something seriously crazy” would have to happen for his charges to get the better of us on Sunday week. The Cavan native cautions, however, that his lads are well fired up for the match and are relishing a crack at the League champions. We have been warned.