We shouldn’t be surprised, I know, at the degree of circumspection which Johnno and his colleagues have demonstrated in picking the team to face Kerry in the NFL on Sunday. Johnno is no radical (sure isn’t he a Blueshirt, for feck’s sake?) and his track record in team selection throughout his Second Coming has – in the league at least – been one of measured, incremental change rather than one of widespread reshuffling. Revolution he’s left till Summer …
So, no starting berths for the likes of Conroy, O’Shea, Parsons, Killer or Barry Moran. No place either for Pat Harte – a near certainty for the first fifteen come Summer – but, like the others, he’ll probably be on the bench at McHale Park. David Heaney, Trevor Mort and Ronan provide significant additional experience to an already well seasoned starting fifteen, all of whom have played for the county at championship level, including the sole tyro, corner-back Tom Cunniffe.
Indeed, it’s interesting to note that ten of Sunday’s starting fifteen played a part in the 2006 All-Ireland (Clarke, Heaney, Higgins, Gardiner, McGarritty, Padden, Dillon and Conor Mortimor lined out from the start and Trevor Mortimor and Andy Moran came on as subs) and as many as eleven of them played at some point in the Salthill meltdown last May (Liam O’Malley, Heaney, Gardiner, Higgins, Padden, the two Mortimors, Dillon and Andy Moran from the start, with Howley and Austie coming off the bench). Seven of them (Heaney, Gardiner, McGarritty, the two Morts, Gill and Dillon) also lined out in the 2004 final.
While there may be good arguments for fielding such an experienced line-up the next day, it is at least noteworthy that Johnno is continuing to deploy the same core group of players virtually all the time. Sure, many of them are getting to experience life in different parts of the field but most of them have been on board for a number of campaigns. Indeed, despite Johnno’s repeated protestations to the contrary, this team selection provides precious few signs that we’re a side in transition right now.