Last night’s U21 win and, in particular, Cillian O’Connor’s MOTM display in the victory over defending All-Ireland champions Galway raises a fairly obvious question for James Horan and his selectors, i.e. how much longer can we afford the luxury of resting the 2011 Young Player of the Year from the senior team?
I know that what James is trying to do is admirable and stands in stark contrast to the Me-Myself-I attitude that John O’Mahony so often adopted in relation to under-age players during the disastrous Second Coming. (Remember The Politician’s annual March whinge once the U21 championship started up every year? In the end, you could nearly set your watch by him.)
I accept that the seniors should be able to cope without getting any help at this time of year from the likes of Michael Walsh, Michael Forde, Danny Kirby, Darren Coen, Evan Regan, Danny Geraghty and Conor O’Shea (all of whom have played at least some part in the senior squad since the start of the year). I also fully concur that it makes sense to hold as many of these lads as possible in reserve so that (Ray Dempsey’s rather bizarre line-ups notwithstanding) we’re in a position to mount a proper assault for honours in a grade that has so often been a happy hunting ground for us.
But Cillian clearly falls into a very different category. When he established himself on the senior team last year – which only happened over the course of the Connacht championship – he quickly became indispensible. Last Sunday, we lost to Down by five points and in doing so missed a number of scoreable frees, the bulk of which – including a 14-yarder missed by Alan Freeman – you would think would have been meat and potatoes stuff for the young Ballintubber man. Last night, Cillian’s haul of nine points – on a night when Galway were kicking wides for fun – was the main reason we scraped a fairly undeserved but still very welcome win over the Tribesmen. We can’t do anything now about the Down result but can we really afford to continue with the policy of keeping our brightest young star on the sidelines next Sunday?
(Photo credit: PJ)