Going forward?

The point raised by Seán in the comments yesterday is, I think, worth a bit of an airing. He posed the question as to whether or not it’s worth our while thinking about calling up some reinforcements in the forward line ahead of the All-Ireland series. I think he has a point.

While Conor’s flouncing off into the sunset is the obvious example that can be pointed to when discussing our diminishing options on the bench, his absence isn’t the only problem facing us in this sector at the moment as this piece in the Mayo News illustrates vividly. Definitely out for the quarter-final are both Pat Harte and Aidan Campbell while Evan Regan is currently nursing an iffy hamstring. Seamus O’Shea – who could be a half-forward option – hasn’t featured for the county in a competitive match for months, although he has lined out for Breaffy in recent weeks.

I never saw the full teamsheet for the Connacht final but, based on the programme for the Leitrim match, it looks as if the forwards we had on the bench in Hyde Park included Micheál Forde (who, I know, could equally be deemed as cover in the half-backs), Michael Conroy and Alan Freeman. Am I missing anyone?

With Conor gone and Pat and Aidan definitely ruled out of action for the August Bank Holiday weekend this means that we have arguably three forward vacancies on the bench for Croke Park. Who might fill this gap? Names that spring to mind are Danny Kirby (releasing him from the panel just a few weeks back now looks to have been a wee bit previous), Darren Coen and Conor O’Shea, all of whom featured on the panel at the start of the year and who all saw action in the FBD.

I know the FBD isn’t exactly good preparation for Croke Park in August but then again neither is turning up at HQ with a dearth of forward options off the bench. It looks as if a combination of a few late call-ups plus some reshuffling among the lads already on the panel (which we could be forced to do anyway in the course of the quarter-final) is the best option facing James and his selectors at this stage.

37 thoughts on “Going forward?

  1. Surely we have plenty of forwards. Bringing in new faces now is risky could cause resentment and affect the confidence of those already there. Anyway who could you get- Ciarán Mac- think he has been a superb player and is a thorough gentleman but he is NOT interested and that bird has flown.
    Time to be realistic. Forwards are working on deficiencies in training and that is the way to go.
    Either there is belief in this team or there isn’t and I for one willing to give them a chance.

  2. Living out of the county now I don’t have my finger on the pulse of who’s going well at club level these days but I would say that we’d be very lucky to pluck someone from nowhere that would be up to AI QF standard especially at this notice.
    Players like Ronaldson or maybe Coen, Conor O’Shea (Kirby would have been an option) from u21 might be worth bringing on board but you wouldn’t like to see them introduced at Croker with the game in the melting pot.

  3. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give the current forwards a chance – it’s obvious from the teams selected all year that James is picking from a small pool of 9-10 forwards – it’s more the lack of any back-up that I’m on about. With a 26-man match-day panel, you’d expect us to have five forwards on the bench but, unless we bring in two additional players, it looks as if we’ll only have three forwards in the subs for the quarter-final. That doesn’t equate to plenty in my opinion.

  4. The problem for me is that we are carrying a lot of mid fielders, Gibbons, Mc Garrity, SOS, AOS, Barry and Geraghty. Now I have no problem with any of these lads. I would say Horan is thinking we need big strong lads who won’t be pushed of the ball. Again this is a worthy objective, the problem is them if we need to call in a scoring forward, who have we on the bench.

    Looking at the club scene the last few months in Mayo, one guy stands out as scoring for fun and that is (I think) Alan Murphy from Ballinrobe. Now I know nothing at all about the lad, he might be 5 feet nothing and 40 years old for all I know, but he has put up big score in a lot of games.

    It could be a bit unsettling bringing in a new face at this stage, however with connor taking his ball home with him there is an opening and Horan is entitled to fill that opening as he sees fit.

    I doubt anyone new will be brought in as it would have happened already if it was a runner.

  5. Would have to agree that we are now a bit thin on the ground with regard to forward replacements. Indeed some would say we are a bit thin on the ground in the forwards anyway! A lot depends on what James has in mind for the No.11 shirt. I suspect that we may see someone from our defensive set-up getting game time at 11 shortly for the simple reason that there are no better forward options available. I’m thinking along the lines of Vaughan, Feeney or even Higgins. The only option from the available forwards would appear to be Freeman. The loss of Harte is unfortunate as I believe he could have been used there. Anybody know when he & Campbell might return if we get past the QF ?
    On the general point of having 30somethings on county panels we see examples of how this is managed in other counties e.g. Padhraic Joyce in Galway, Eamon O Hara in Sligo, Tony Browne in Waterford Hurling. We see how they are used sparingly and only in the important matches & I dont see any major reaction from younger harder training players.Everyone understands that a 35 year old cant train like a 25 year old. No prizes for guessing who I have in mind !

  6. The no. 11 shirt is critical at the moment. Pat Hart would be my choice if fit but I think Freeman or Seamus O’ Shea could do a job here. With regards to replacements I think Kirby , Coen and O’Shea the third would be fine as replacements given that they were involved all during the league. Wuth regards to Mac , like all Mayomen I’d love to see him there on the bench and I’ve no doubt under different circumstances he could still do a job but I doubt he’d be interested after what happened and who could blame him, anyway if would ruin the mystic the of the man as well!!!!!!!!!
    Somethinng that has been mentioned and shot down as well in equal measure is Aiden to full forward. I think this should definitely be an option that is kept open to us to spring as a surprise while not as our main tatic. These little things can often unsettle the oposition as Tyrone often did to Kerry over the last decade and who’ll forget Aiden’s debut season! It not as if he couldn’t take a score which seems to be Tomas O’ Connor’s problem for Kildare?

  7. Was reading reports of County Senior Championship and crossmolina’s Cathal Carolan caught my attention as a former underage player of great heart ans strength he scored 1-1 or 1-2 for cross on sunday dont know why he hasn’t been brought from u 21 where he played county a few yrs back but he seems to be still doing the business.
    As said unlikely to see changes in panel at this stage, I suppose if we have a spread of scores from all lines of the field as has been happening we are not in such a bad place ,better surely than being reliant on a marquee forward, that said I would have liked to see Doherty and Freeman been given more game time during the league –water under bridge
    SO .. we are where we are as the man said,I’m sure the lads are preparing for the quarters and nothing beyond that.Best of luck to them.

  8. Hard to know who can be brought in at this stage that would be up to the standard required. I imagine JH and his men have a far better idea than us of what standard of forward is available county-wide and who’s performing in the club championships.

    My two bits? Get Seamus O’Shea fit – match-fit – use him at 11 and push Cillian back into the inside line. Aidan at 14 is a non-runner – see his year at FF under John O’Mahony if you don’t believe me. With all the Aidan talk, it seems that Seamus, a fine player, is in danger of becoming a forgotten man. Mayo need him just as much as his brother if the team is going to push on from 2011.

    Ciaran McDonald? Grasping at straws boys. I don’t care if he scored 9 points or whatever for Crossmolina in a club match. There’s a world of difference between that and being a first-choice forward on the county team. Especially in this panel, who look far more committed and serious about what they’re doing than any Mayo panel since Maughan 1996-99.

  9. As to forwards it’s really all about the number 11 shirt.
    If that was filled then Cillian would be another option for the corner.

    For taht position we need someone physical and mobile especially against the bigger teams.

    I would say it is a game of horses for courses and you pick your team based on your opposition.

    e.g. if we were playing Kerry I would be looking at moving Alan Freenman (or the like) in on top of Aidan O’mahony and bombing in some balls into him where he can use his muscles all he wants and give it socks against O’ Mahony. That would free up Andy to move out to CHF and free up Cillian as well.

    Only other option I can think of is to look at if you want someone back in thesquad at this stage is probably Tom Parsons. young strong guy who has played Inter county at this level. Ideally if both he and Tom Cunniffe could get themselves properly motivated they would be great aditiomns to the squad.

    PS:- I know T. Cunniffe is out this year but hopefully this won’t be long term.
    I think he’s a class act.

  10. Back in the merry month of May I suggested that the following jerseys needed to be filled: 9, 11, 13 and 14. For No 9 Barry Moran has since come out of the pack and I expect that he has done enough to hold on to it and to partner Aidan in the engine room.

    However, it is the half forward line that most concerns me. McLoughlin has done enough to hold on to No 10 but Cillian is not at home there and I am increasingly concerned with the need for penetration that is required at 12. Don’t get me wrong, Alan Dillon is a class player, with a brilliant ability to make shooting space for himself and take some cracking points. As a result, I think that he would now be more at home in the No 15 shirt with Cillian in the other corner. So who then for 11, 12 and 14?

    Well, Andy is certainly one of them. He is a great man to get a low ball and lay it off. With two accurate corner forwards, that is a real advantage to him at No 14. However, it rules out the high ball and I think we need that option as well.

    As a result I’m going to put something out for discussion and I would ask everyone to consider its merit before shooting it down. Danny Geraghty is probably unlikely to start at centrefield now that Aidan is back but he has shown a number of skills in the games he has played so far. He is a very good ball winner, he can kick points, he is as strong as an ox and he won’t be pushed around. Could he be an option at No 14? I think he is worth a look.

    Which leaves No 11 and No 12. With Andy getting one of them (and I don’t know which would be better), I think the man for the last jersey comes down to Alan Freeman or Jason Doherty and from a distribution point of view, I would give the nod to the Aghamore man.

    In my comment in May I finished with the following sentence:
    “So going long looks a much better option. However, it probably means that only one of the Doherty/Mort/Conroy/Dillon quartet would start.”

    That might still be the case.

    Keep the Faith!

  11. Believe we have enough forwards/midfielders on panel without bringing people in. You cannot unsettle team at this stage. R.Feeney,D.Geraghty,S.O.Shea all could play in half forward line.

    Would like to see a more physical presence from Mayo. We cannot ever allow others to push us around as in the past. Kerry,Cork,Donegal,Kerry and Kildare have learned about physicality while Meath always knew it!

    This could be the difference between losing and winning. Lot of light lads in forwards. Time to stand up to Noel o Leary,j.mcCarthy,and their ilk.

  12. Take your point WJ but wonder on what possible basis you could introduce any of those you mentioned ahead of the present panel who will be subs. If Varley and Doherty and Geraghty picked as in Connaught Final then you have Freeman,Conroy,J.Gibbons,A.O.Shea,S.O.Shea,R.Feeney,M.Forde,R.McGarrity all of whom could play in the forwards. Now my point is that if you introduce someone before these that would lead to lack of cohesion.If you’re not going to introduce them then why have them on panel?
    Like you I wish we had more forwards but it is what it is at this stage.

  13. Has anybody even thought of the stalwart Feeney who I think is bombing it at the moment

  14. A great debt is owed to those people who support Mayo through thick and thin.
    It is easy for me and others like me who are resident in the county and surrounded by talk of Mayo morning noon and night. Hats off to those outside the county and country who have never forgotten their roots and who support from afar often at great expense. To the John cuffes and others I say Molaim thu. You bring a wealth of experience and passion and loyalty to the cause.
    It has to be said other counties claim to have the greatest supporters. That claim will appear what it is I.e false on the day Mayo win the long cherished golden fleece.
    Never forget supporters the role you play. You keep our spirits up through good and bad and yes it is only a game but it is the game that makes the reality bearable. And to people like Willie Joe you perform a terrific service and you too can swell with pride when the Holy Grail is finally excavated.
    Yes we are Mayo. We are proud hopeful and fair. We will have our day whenever it is and that day will be a day of wondrous celebration.In the meantime keep the faith and Thank you for being of Mayo.

  15. Nobody has mentioned Jayo for 11-Had a serious game there for the Tubber on Sun.

  16. I,v seen Aiden Kilcoyne in action twice this year and he seems to be back to full fitness. He scored 8 points on sunday in the c,ship for Knockmore.

  17. Realistically I don’t think anyone will be or should be added to the panel at this point – in this day and age position is meaning less and less anyway – I mean K McLoughlin spends most of his time in midfield, does that not make him a midfielder not a forward :p

    Admittedly and unfortunately, there is a dearth of traditional scoring forwards, but this is a case not just in Mayo but across the country. We just have to make do.

  18. The draw for the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals will take place on Saturday evening at 8.30pm. RTE Radio 1 will broadcast the draw.

  19. Time for a call to arms lads. I don’t care who we get in quarters. I don’t care who plays in ff line. I think our whole year since semi last year has been about this moment. We have the team so let’s kick some ass. Time to deliver. Bring them on!

  20. Thanks for that, bringbackmc – I see that the change of date for the draw has now been officially confirmed: an outbreak of common sense it would appear. Hopefully they’ll also take the opportunity to confirm on Sunday the dates and times for the quarter-finals.

  21. Willie Joe,

    You say Conor is gone. Are we sure of that. I say bring him back. What he did was wrong but we need him if we want to win. Always good for a few points from play and we need that. We have plenty of good free takers. Get him back.

    What would an experienced man like John Cuffe think??????

  22. I’ve a felling your really going to stir opinions with this post WJ.Wasn’t it written in the stars for Ciaran Mc to put in a performance like that the weekend. Adding fuel to the bring back Ciaran Mc fire. Personally I believe it’s the future and at his age he is probably doing well to be playing club, no disrespect for the great one intended. From the names mentioned none have done anything to suggest a place in the squad is warranted, possibly the opposite. Aidan Kilcoyne has showed some form but really how many chances has he had, is now the time to give another. I think what we have is good enough, all that is missing is confidence. Michael Conroy showed in the league whats he’s about, give him a chance and he’ll generally punish. Alan Freeman was up there with the best around a couple of years ago and showed what he’s capable of. Jason Doherty probably just needs a score or two to kickstart things. Remember Cork last year, he came on scored straight away and then looked a real threat after. Talent is there in the forwards,confidence is missing. Add Andy,Cillian,Kevin to the mix, things are not so bad. Bringing Conor Mortimer back will only disrupt the squad.

  23. i am just watching and reading about the rise and rise of Donegal football. Seems they are the anointed ones. I am not so sure about that.

    One thing that has surprised me was the cohesive and almost demonic way Jim McGuinness has kept a county together. this is a county where tribal instincts run deep and carry long memories. Gweedore will recall past deeds against Dungloe or Ballyshannon and envoke the ghosts of the past to incite the troops of the present.

    When McGuiness summarily dismissed Kevin Cassidy, talisman and All Star from his panel with the door firmly bolted , I held my breath. I waited for the Mcgees to follow him out, I watched for the Gweedores to rant and rave…but no. McGuinness tossed down the glove and any man brave enough to pick it up was challenged. McGuinness won.

    His sideline man Gallagher does his stuff, the team have modified last years game and moved forward. I still think that they will come up fairly short but I give them this. Kevin Cassidy did not become the focus, a reshuffle in the half back line breathed new life into other players. The fresh air generated allowed the team to prosper.

    In Mayo we still hanker after Conor Mortimer. I don’t. he choose to leave the panel. An unfortunate but understandable of familial support on the airwaves had the wrong effect. Mayo reached a semi final last year without the boy. The game is evolving and moving. It waits for nobody, we dont have the time to cosset and cuddle those cut from the first 15, the game now is a 20/21 man effort.

    One man goes but two corner forwards came under the spotlight. That is wrong. The manager had to come out boxing as well. That too is wrong. Cassidy left , the team healed, gelled agus chuaigh siad ar aighead. Tá O Cassaidhe thall í m Bostan ag an noimead seo agus tá Tír Conaill ins na cliuche deirneach don craoibh Sinsear na h Eireann. Is é O Caisseadhe a chail amach agus is e an foireann a fuair misneach agus cail. Ba cheart an rud cheile a tharla í Muigheo chomh maith.

  24. i think you are right john, mort always stood as an outsider and defined himself as an outsider, the team will take some collective strength from his exit , his actions might lead to glory for mayo after all!

  25. It’s not me that’s pronouncing Conor is gone, PJ, it’s just a simple fact that he is. Under what circumstances do you think he could be recalled to the panel at this stage? In light of why he walked, you’d have to assume that he’d either be willing to eat humble pie and accept a place on the bench the next day (I can’t see that happening) or else that James would guarantee a starting place to a player who stormed off the panel in a blaze of publicity a few days before the Connacht final (I can’t see that happening either). To be honest I doubt very much if James would ever again be prepared to place his trust in a player who did what he did in the circumstances that he did it. To use the Kevin Cassidy example, what Conor did was far, far worse.

    As regards bringing news lads in now, I’d agree with the sentiment that we don’t really have any credible options at this stage. Maybe Danny Kirby wasn’t ready for the step-up this year but it’s a pity that he didn’t get any other chances after his gour-goal haul in the FBD. There’s not a lot we can do about it now, I guess.

    This means we need to be more creative with the players we’ve got. Looking at the tape of the Connacht final again, I think there’s still an issue for us with the half-forward line in terms of the lack of speed and quality of ball being fed inside. I’d agree with FourGoal that Alan Dillon might be better suited to a corner-forward position at this stage as he’d be a good man to get a score and his experience and guile would be very useful nearer the posts. He takes way too much out of the ball as it is and that delay in feeding the ball in played straight into Sligo’s hands the last day, contributing to the frustration of the corner-forwards as they were marked out of it before the ball got into them.

    Part of the answer to our problems has then to be a more direct approach in the half-forwards. If Cillian is shifted in too, that’s two new corner-forwards we’ve got (though I can’t see that happening, certainly not from the start) and two places to fill in the half-forwards. If either of them are moved inside (and it’ll only be one if even that), then that frees up a place (preferably at 11) for one of the many midfielders we have to start there. Who would be best to do so – either of the O’Sheas or maybe even Jason Gibbons?

  26. I don’t see any harm in bringing in a forward or two, but I’d say it should be someone already involved this year. This team has built up a strong work ethic and they understand each others game and the tactical plan perfectly. Couldn’t see how a player not previously in the squad could adapt to that at this late stage.

    As for Mortimer, please no. I’ve been a big defender of him in the past, but he’s crossed a line. He’s made his decision so let’s just leave it at that now.
    We have more importnat things to be concentrating on than one player. No one player is bigger than the team, especially a team built on hard work and solidarity. So time to move on.

  27. i think the best case made has to be for seamus oshea , he is back in action and no doubt has the respect of all other panellists , certainly a man for the half forward line. four-goal kirby is out of the country judging by his twitter.

  28. For the life of me i can’t see why people want to see Conor back after what he did. I wouldn’t be a great fan of James but 4 a player to refuse to play for his county when selected being either on the starting 15 or match day panel is serious offence.Our County Commitee would be within their rights to suspend that player 4 six months.We can dress it up all the way we like but the management got it right .Regardless of wats being said it had its affect on the performance in the final and it brought unwanted attention to our county. We are tryin to build 4 the future ……………………………………………………………. I presume that JH and his backroom team have a pool of players in reserve to call upon when the needs arise. Can’t see many players standing out to be honest.The step up is massive and anyone called in now would only be makin up the numbers

  29. All good points made here about additions to the squad, just some points though;

    Tom Cunniffe – is back from America and playing with Mitchels, he is an option but not sure if he is making himself available.

    Danny Kirby – is off in America for the summer, might be back in August.

    Aidan Kilcoyne – Is living and working in London so isnt an option really although he is flying by all accounts.

    Tom Parsons – I don’t think he’s much of an option either, squad is heavy on midfield players anyway.

    Alan Murphy – Is playing excellent stuff but is contracted to play soccer with Mervue Utd so not sure if he could get out of that, if he could he would be an excellent addition is a very dangerous player scored 2-7 of Ballinrobes 2-8 on Sunday last.

    Ciaran Mac – No doubting his skills and ability and he would be an excellent sub but I very much doubt Horan will bring him back, he’s more looking for a speed and hard work player than all out talent.

    As for our current squad Jason Gibbons had an excellent man of the match display for tubber at the weekend, Richie Feeney (hopefully will be fit) is an option across the half forward line as are the O’Shea’s, Freeman also an option. As for the rest I dont think they’ll come into contention in the forward line really.

    Also would Harte or Campbell be picked at 10-12 even if they were fit, not to sure?

    As for the qtrs, same back line, midfield as finished the last day, McLoughlin, Dillon, Freeman, OConor, Moran, Doherty. Dont think Horan will be taking too many risks with new positions for players etc.

  30. I ll leave the Conor bit. But you know he would not be the first man who refused to play for Mayo. We had a player in the past who would not come on from the subs bench. He refused point blank. He was selected the following year and we won the Connaught Final but beaten in the semi. (before your time Willie – John Cuffe remembers it I would say)

  31. I don’t really understand the Mort thing myself. In my opinion he was the best impact sub in the country. He was like a weapon you could unleash on any opposition and almost always guaranteed at least 3 points. As a starter he could be a bit flat, this was never the case when he came on in the middle of a game. No1 Impact Sub is a crucial position on any team. Look at Galvin in Kerry, he would come on put in a huge performance and be a hero. I really think I’m missing something here…

  32. John Cuffe, people are still talking about the Mort thing because thats our job, they (the fans) were talking about the Cassidy thing in Donegal look after as well. But its only us talking, its a done deal as far as James Horan and company are concerned I’d be fairly sure.
    I don’t know what the answer is to the forwards issue to be honest, I like Four Goal Mc Gees idea, it has some merit as a plan B or C and is worth a try. When is the A v B match on, theres at least 12 forwards on the field playing in that, surely we have to have enough options to fill 6 positions with some options

  33. But Coilltemach – Conor couldn’t handle being a sub. He walked because he wanted to be first choice. Horan cannot guarantee that.

    The impact sub thing is a nice idea but the fact about Conor remains that he is just too small. Any team that roughed him up a little (Cork in the League final the most recent example) erased him from the game. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen him win a high ball. Unlike Andy Moran, for example, who has bulked himself up so much that you’d fancy him to win his own ball off anyone, even though he’s no giant of a man either.

    Mayo don’t need six Hulks up front, but we do need six men who can win their own ball, high or low. And Mayo don’t need any more players with delusions about their own importance. We’ve had enough of those to last a lifetime. Horan recognises this and he deserves to be commended for that IMHO.

  34. Good piece Mayo’s Marquee, agree with a lot of it.
    I agree that Moran could be better utilised in the 11 position, but it leaves us with a lack of ball winning options in the full forward line.
    For whatever reason, Freeman seems to have regressed over the past 2 years. But there’s a big performance in him, let’s hope it’s the next day. A Moran and Freeman can easily alternate positions throughout a game anyway.

    A O’Shea is definitely suited to the no.11 role and the loss in midfield would be easier to take with B Moran playing so well. But you’d have to say that the thought of Moran and O’Shea in midfield is an exciting one, there wouldn’t be many better partnerships in the country. I’d say a lot will depend on who we draw in the QF, Horan seems to favour a ‘horses for courses’ type approach.

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