With the 2016 senior panel flying out to South Africa today for a 10-day break (no, before you ask I’m not sure where in that country they’re headed but, wherever it is they’re going, the weather in that part of the world looks a good bit better than here right now), the county’s 2017 campaign will get going this Sunday in the absence of the players who went so close to claiming Sam for us last year.
Stephen Rochford’s first assignment in the new year comes in the form of a pre-season FBD League clash against NUIG at MacHale Park this coming Sunday, where throw-in is set for 2pm.
As was announced the other day (piece in The 42 here), a number of players have been called into the panel for the FBD and most of them are likely to see action on Sunday. This call-up should see senior debuts this month for the likes of Rory Byrne, Donie Newcombe, Gareth O’Donnell, Michael Plunkett, Fergal Boland and Liam Irwin.
In addition, David Kenny, who started against IT Sligo in last year’s FBD, and Neil Douglas, who has made a number of appearances in both the FBD and the League in recent years, are likely to get game time over the coming weeks. Sunday could also see the very welcome return to the fray of 2012 All-Star full-back Ger Cafferkey.
The Mayo News reports today (paper and digital formats) that Jason Gibbons, who is also included on the list of those called up for the FBD, has gone on the South Africa trip so he won’t be available to face NUIG. That piece by Mike Finnerty states that 2016 panel members Robbie Hennelly, Shane Nally, Michael Hall, Conor Loftus and Conor O’Shea, as well as the recently-married Barry Moran, didn’t go on the holiday.
I’ve no idea if they’re all fit and ready for selection on Saturday but Mike Finnerty says in that article that, the U21s’ North-West Cup match against Derry the day before notwithstanding, Stephen Rochford is likely to dip into Mike Solan’s U21 panel for some reinforcements for Sunday’s senior inter-county opener.
In short, then, regardless of whatever team is named to start on Sunday it’s set to be one featuring a very significant amount of experimentation. Well, it is only the FBD after all.