Looking towards the League opener

Photo: MichaelMaye.com

With our 2017 FBD League campaign now safely squared away, thoughts can begin to turn to our opening match in this year’s National Football League. Monaghan rock into town on Saturday night week (4th February) with throw-in at MacHale Park set for 7pm that evening.

We’ve done okay against the Farney lads in recent years. Last March we came out on top in that must-win encounter up in Clones – a game Stephen Rochford later described as one of the real pressure matches (or words to that effect) of his first year in the hot seat – while the previous March we ended up giving them a right spanking at MacHale Park after their indiscipline saw them getting two players ordered off.  A three-in-a-row over Malachy O’Rourke’s charges would represent the perfect start from our perspective to this League campaign.

Last year our less than stellar opening to the spring series wasn’t help by the large list of players either injured or unavailable to line out. Twelve months on, we appear to be in better fettle heading into the start of the League.

We’re not without problems in this respect, though, as this piece in the Mayo News shows. Despite this, I still make it that the bulk of the team that lined out for us in last October’s All-Ireland final replay should be available to play on Saturday week. Let’s go through the list.

Definitely out for the League opener are Chris Barrett, Michael Hall, Brendan Harrison and Ger Cafferkey. The first two are, according to that Mayo News report, out for the medium-term while Brendan Harrison should be back in action at some point next month. Ger is scheduled to return to the fray in early March but how much League action he sees is anyone’s guess.

Unlikely to feature on Saturday week are loved-up duo Alan Dillon and Barry Moran. Both are just back off their respective honeymoons and are, no doubt, knee-deep in unwrapping presents and the like right now.

That Mayo News piece says that Aidan and Seamus O’Shea, Caolan Crowe, Conor Loftus and Diarmuid O’Connor are all injury doubts. Diarmuid did, though, line out for DCU in the Sigerson yesterday so it’s likely he will be okay to feature.

As others have already said, though, I’d be reluctant to play the two-time Young Footballer of the Year too much this spring. He carried us for the early rounds of the League last year and then played a very prominent part in the U21s’ march to glory but once he got that kick in the leg in the qualifiers against Kildare he was never right again for the remainder of our championship run. If it were me (and it’s plainly not) I’d be using him sparingly enough over the next while.

Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane may or may not be available, depending on how Westport get on in their All-Ireland club IFC semi-final next Sunday. Their Kerry opponents, Kenmare, are priced at 1/5 to win that one so you’d have to think it’s likely the two lads will be freed up to line out for the county. For now, though, all of their focus will be, as it should be, on Ennis next Sunday.

Aside from the shoal of newbies who got blooded in the FBD, the only other player who might possibly be in the running for county duty on Saturday week is Adam Gallagher. The Mayo Gaels player – who last lined out for the county in our opening League match two years ago, down in Killarney against Kerry  – has been cutting a dash for NUIG since the start of the year and he may well have done enough to earn himself a recall to the panel.

So, then, adding all that together, I make it that ten of the fifteen who lined out in the All-Ireland final replay should be available for selection to play Monaghan. These are Robbie Hennelly, Donal Vaughan, Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan, Tom Parsons, Kevin McLoughlin, Jason Doherty, Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran. The two O’Sheas may or may not be fit to start, Diarmuid O’Connor ditto while Lee may, as we just discussed, continue to be club-tied. Brendan Harrison is the only starter from last October who is definitely ruled out through injury.

In addition, of the six subs used last October three – David Clarke, Stephen Coen and Conor O’Shea – should be good to go while the other three – Chris Barrett, Alan Dillon and Barry Moran – won’t be.

That makes thirteen of the players (two of whom are goalkeepers) who saw action in last year’s All-Ireland final (fourteen, if you add in Evan Regan, who came off the bench in the drawn game) okay to play against Monaghan on Saturday week. Mix in with that lot a few of the fringe lads who did well in the FBD and that makes it a healthy enough pick for Stephen Rochford and his colleagues to decide on for our first competitive test in 2017.

20 thoughts on “Looking towards the League opener

  1. i am really looking forward to the league starting up. I hope we have a decent crowd at our first game versus monaghan.We should be able to start off with a win and then head to tralee the following saturday to play kerry. That is on the same evening as the dr crokes v corofin club semi-final so kerry will be understrength when we play them.I think we can have a really good league this year and qualify for the final.I have our season tickets in hand so myself and son will be in castlebaron 04/02/2017 to cheer on the team.I have a great feeling about 2017. let it begin.

  2. I didn’t say he was, Ger – I was just speculating as to whether or not his performances for NUIG this month might prompt a recall to the panel.

  3. I’d hope Adam Gallagher would be recalled to the panel we are what 10 days out now from the Monaghan game the panel is probably not finalised yet with injuries etc

  4. Ger McDonagh seems to not be a part of the panel?
    He had Cillian all blocked out in the Club championship. Hadn’t heard of any injury.

  5. I see that James Shaughnessy scored 1-6 (1-2 from play) for IT Sligo today in their win over GMIT in the Sigerson Cup. He seems to be doing well lately also.

  6. While we’re down a few, we’re definitely in much better shape than we were last February. When you throw in the likes of Jason Gibbons, Danny Kirkby, Shane Nally, Fergal Boland, Donie Newcombe along with the names WJ lists above its not looking too bad at all for the early rounds of the league.

  7. The biggest problem in the early part of last year’s league was we had no reliable free taker available since Cillian and Freeman were injured. I remember in several of our games missing relatively simple frees that cost us. Fingers crossed we’ll be okay in that department for this campaign.

    I’m really looking forward to see how Boland and Kirby fare against some Div 1 teams. Hopefully Irwin kicks on too as we need to find some new faces in the inside line.

  8. Would like to see Adam Gallagher considered for the panel, he is a very intelligent footballer. Believe he scored 1-4 against Trinity last night?

  9. Agree Toto, I also would like to see Adam Gallagher included in the panel. But it has to be factored in his free taking, can only be a big plus, however with Liam Irwin, Alan Freeman, 1.07(6 frees)his last outing & Cillian (undoubtedly the best free taker in the country for the last 6 year’s) We are not short on freetakers at this particular moment. So personally I would like to see included and started those who are more of a scoring threat from play for the first few league matches, That criteria would certainly would certainly give the edge to Adam Gallagher, Freeman and Liam Irwin. I have no doubt about Cillian’s quality on big match days, possibly the first name on the team sheet, but Mayo needs to cultivate scoring forwards. Freeman has done it on big occasions before, but that’s a few years ago now. Look its great to have all these player’s, none will ever develop into potential Match winning scoring forwards on All Ireland day unless given the chance to play in the league. Right now Mayo are in a good position with the players at our disposal. We have to give them the chance to flourish, it’s no good calling on those players and expecting a performance in the event of an established player or two being unavailable because of suspension or injury. They need game time…… ………… I. agree with Willie Joe about using Diarmuid O Connor sparingly in the early rounds of the league. ….It’s great the league is only around the corner, the bitter pain of the All Ireland defeat is now a memory (apart from the odd flashbacks)… I’d say Andy is mad for road after his late brace sunk the Rossi, some things never change!

  10. Ger McDonagh had a bit of a clean out of his knee after Castlebar were finished. Due back training this week.

  11. Yeah Wide Ball your right there. In fact I’d say that Cillian O’Connor has missed the early part of a good few of our league campaigns over the last few years. We’d seem to be struggling in our early games then Cillian would come back in for the latter games and we’d manage to get a few wins under our belts. Remember the two sideline balls that he scored against Cork in 2013, to get us the win. Rather than getting relegated we ended up in the league semi-finals.

    It’s a pity that Conor Loftus has not seen any game time this year yet as he seems to have all of the attributes that you require in a scoring forward. He is two footed, has a bit of pace, he can take frees and he seems to be an intelligent player as well. He is also a big game player. Hopefully he will be back to full fitness soon as we need someone like him to provide us with a bit of flair. Our league campaigns have seemed to have gone a bit stale the last few years, so it would be great to see a bit of an injection of something different this year. The Saturday night games will be a bit of a novelty too. Fergal Boland and Liam Irwin will be two players to keep an eye on anyway. Donie Newcombe could give us something in Brendan Harrison’s absence as well. Roll on the league!

  12. We seem much better prepared than last year. I’d like to see a few more players that were out last year given their chances in the league. Now is the time to find out who is available for the championship, rather than flog players who need time.

  13. Agree with comment about loftus. Amazing player I think . Looks for goals too exactly what we need this year . Excited too see Boland this year too with his form in fbd . Want to see how he does in the league and sees how Irwin fairs as I’ve was watching him very close in the U21 and from minor level . Has huge talent and another goal getter , who wouldn’t love to see him develop this spring .

    Probably a big league for some other fringe players too . Evan Regan must get a bit of game time too to see how he will be placed come the summer . Maybe kirby as well and Newcombe looks decent too . Few others too I left out but can’t wait for the long road to begin again . The excitement starts in February and hopefully will end in late September on the steps of the hogan stand !

  14. I just spotted the link the Connacht Telegraph shared of AOS in a foot cast. A man with a mayo address putting him down on in the comments section saddened me.

    It is far far beyond me how a player who makes himself available for selection gets this abuse. We did this before with Mort. Why do we seem to need a scapegoat in this county? Why is it tolerated in Mayo

    Rochford I feel would benefit from coming out behind his players if he feels they hold the right attitude for team selection, yet are receiving public criticism for attitude. Take the heat off them, similar to what the Sligo basketball manager did.

    I feel from watching ‘Aido’ that he is a confidence player, in darkness little will flourish.

  15. Well said bulltoe this running down players doesn’t help anyone.
    He takes serious abuse all year on the pitch and the last thing any player needs is shite from his own.
    The fact he’s playing basketball ball shows he knows himself he needs to improve on certain aspects of his game,and I believe he will.
    On another note was watching Carolan in fbd and hope he Push’s for a place this year seems to have bulked up and has serious pace.
    We need to give as many of these players as we can a run in the league.

  16. Good week for Westport. Held on to the big house and held on against the Kerry boys.

    Croke park beckons now.

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