The team to face Cork on Sunday (throw-in 2pm) was named a short while ago tonight and, not surprisingly, there are some changes from the side that started in that dismal showing up in Ballyshannon last Sunday.
It is, perhaps, a bit of a surprise that there are only four changes from the Donegal game and it looks as if at least one of these – Colm Boyle for Kevin Keane – is an enforced one. The other three are Knockmore’s Shane McHale (making his NFL debut) for Richie Feeney and, in a reshaped forward line, Cillian O’Connor and Michael Conroy come in for Conor Mortimer and Enda Varley.
The more you look at it, the more surprising this selection becomes. Okay, Kevin Keane appears to be ill and Colm Boyle is well due a start but the Davitts man is an out-and-out half-back and has the scars to show from his unhappy time at corner-back in 2008. Let’s hope this is only a stop-gap measure.
Shane McHale has been on the bench for a good while but has never even been called into action as a sub before during this league campaign and he has only ever played in a few FBD matches. It’s a brave enough move by James to give him a start at wing-back where he’ll be up against no less a player than Fintan Goold.
I think everyone expected some changes at midfield (I certainly did), a sector where, in James Horan’s own words, we got “smashed” in Ballyshannon. If Aido were available he would, of course, be starting but he’s not and the big brother and big Barry can count themselves lucky to be lining out there again together. By contrast, eternal sub Jason Gibbons can consider himself a bit hard done by to be warming his posterior on the bench yet again.
It’s good to see Cillian back in action, good to see him at 11 too but flanked as he is by Kevin McLoughlin and Alan Dillon we’re once again creating the risk (likelihood?) that we won’t have enough incisiveness and will lack direction as we move the ball forward.
I’m delighted to see Michael Conroy back in the first fifteen but is it really wise to drop both Conor Mortimer and Enda Varley at the same time? After all, they have between them racked up more than 50% of our scores since the league started.
So, plenty of questions then. Let’s hope we’ll see a few emphatic answers once the ball is thrown in at McHale Park. Here’s the full list:
Mayo (NFL Division One v Cork, 25/3/2012): David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites); Colm Boyle (Davitts), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Lee Keegan (Westport), Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Shane McHale (Knockmore); Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy), Barry Moran (Castlebar Mitchels); Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber), Alan Dillon (Ballintubber); Alan Freeman (Aghamore), Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen), Michael Conroy (Davitts). Subs: Robert Hennelly (Breaffy), Eoghan Reilly (Castlebar Mitchels), Kevin Keane (Westport), Peadar Gardiner (Crossmolina), Danny Geraghty (Ballintubber), Jason Gibbons (Ballintubber), Pat Harte (Ballina Stephenites), Jason Doherty (Burrishoole), Aidan Campbell (Swinford), Conor Mortimer (Parnells, Dublin), Enda Varley (Garrymore), Evan Regan (Ballina Stephenites).