Former Kerry manager Jack O’Connor has recently joined the Irish Times as a Gaelic football columnist, where former Cork hurling supremo John Allen has also taken up residence over the last few weeks. The opinions of this pair of Munster heavyweights will be worth perusing over the coming months, not least because both of them have delivered All-Ireland triumphs for their respective counties in the two codes.Jack’s piece yesterday (premium content, subscription required) about Sunday’s match was of particular interest to us, as he made a number of telling observations about team selection. While one of them was that hoary old chestnut about playing Super Mac at full-forward – the last word on this was, I thought, definitively provided in his usual erudite manner by the Spailpin last Summer – Jack did make the valid point that Conoreen needs a playmaker in the full-forward line to get him moving. This is especially true, I think, of his appearances in Croker where he tends to disappear into some kind of black hole in the forward line. I don’t think that Mac will, because of his ongoing back problems if nothing else, be an option for us in this regard but Trevor – given the way the Mort boys do like to keep the ball within the family – or, perhaps, a wild card like Pat Harte might be. Any other suggestions?
Jack also reckoned that Ger Brady should have been hauled off, as it was clear things weren’t working for him. Jack felt that he’s a player shorn of confidence and I think he’s right there. That certainly has seemed the case for a while and when he was taken off against the Dubs, I thought he’d be looking at a while on the bench. However, the experiment of playing him at full-forward up in Omagh seemed to revitalise him and, although he didn’t put in a forceful display against Galway, he still bagged 1-1 in that game. If he had converted his goal chance against Donegal, things would no doubt have been different – Kevin McStay’s take on what he should have done to make sure it hit the net is relevant in this respect – but Jack’s correct in saying that it would have been as well to take him out of the firing line before the end.
The Kerryman’s most interesting comment relates to the positioning of David Heaney and BJP. He doesn’t believe that BJ is the man for centre-back and thinks instead that Heaney “could do the job” there. My belief is that Johnno will stick with BJ for the Galway game – indeed I think he’s likely to stick with the entire current back-line – but, following a number of excellent performances over the past few weeks, Heaney is now, I believe, a dead-cert to start against Galway. He’s most likely to start at midfield, alongside Pat Harte, with David Brady kept in reserve but an option would be to shift Heaney to centre-back to accommodate the Ballina Alpha Male. That would be a bit tough on BJ, who has played in virtually every position for Mayo, except goalkeeper, over the past three years. That’s a thought – we are lacking cover between the sticks at the moment . . .