We’re back in action in the National Football League this afternoon. Our Division One Round 2 match against Tyrone takes place up in Healy Park, Omagh, where throw-in is set for 2.30pm. Joe McQuillan is the ref for this one.
In the first year of James Horan’s initial tenure as manager widespread experimentation was the order of the day. Right throughout the 2011 League campaign he shifted and sifted, never making fewer than six changes to the starting line-up compared to the team that had lined out in the previous match.
It should, then, be no surprise that James is once again displaying an appetite for trialling new talent. While his second coming was largely portrayed, in particular outside the county, as the old band getting back together, this was never going to be the case. Change was needed and change was going to happen.
A number of fringe players were given run-outs in the FBD and then two of these – Brian Reape and Conor Diskin – were handed full League debuts in last weekend’s League opener against Roscommon. Three more newbies – James McCormack, Fionn McDonagh and Ciaran Treacy – make their full League debuts today. This means that the team lining out for us in Omagh will be one of the most youthful sides we’ve fielded in a competitive fixture in quite a while.
All the grizzled old heads haven’t gone away – far from it – but an injection of a significant amount of new blood was an absolute necessity for us this year. Given this imperative James is right to make a virtue of it and pitch the young lads in at the deep end. Healy Park is tough spot for visiting teams so if our young guns prosper there today then it’ll augur well for their futures as inter-county footballers.
Last Saturday night’s win also provides us with a bit of breathing space and so the risk James is taking in unleashing the young lads in numbers today is a calculated one. It’s not the end of the world if it does end up backfiring.
I’ve no idea, I confess, how today’s match is likely to go. Tyrone are – deservedly – favourites to win and they probably will but this is far from certain. (How’s that for a bit of elegant fence-sitting?)
There’s likely to be little or no wind blowing at Healy Park today so we can expect a very different type of contest today compared to the one that was hugely influenced by the wild weather last weekend.
Last Saturday night showed that our two long-standing problems in dealing with a blanket defence – an inability to penetrate the wall and a tendency to defend far too loosely when break-out attacks occur – are still there. This means that if we adopt the same approach today as we did in trying to break down the Rossies then this game will only go one way.
But if we can demonstrate a new-found ability to prise open the kind of deep-lying defence Tyrone are sure to deploy while tightening up a bit at the back ourselves then we’re in with a good chance of getting something out of this one. These twin aims won’t be easy to sort but if we can go some way towards doing this then it could be a productive afternoon for us.
Right – enough yap, there’s driving to be done today. It’s an easier journey for me, based here in Dublin, compared to the trek from the west but, regardless of the distance, I expect we’ll bring significant support with us today. Safe travelling on the roads and let’s see plenty of shouting from the stand too.
Best of luck today to James and the team and, in particular, to the young lads. Up Mayo.