More changes on the way for Sunday

Team before start of Monaghan match

That report in the Mayo News that was mentioned in the comments earlier on is here and it confirms that further changes to the starting fifteen are certain to be made for Sunday’s trip to Celtic Park.

With the U21s starting their Connacht championship campaign in a week’s time, it’s no surprise that Stephen Coen, Patrick Durcan and Diarmuid O’Connor – all of whom started against Monaghan last Sunday and went on to perform strongly – have been released from senior duties for this coming Sunday. Michael Hall, an unused sub against Monaghan, has also been freed up to join the U21 squad, which, of course, already features senior players Adam Gallagher and Morgan Lyons.

That piece also solves the mystery of what happened to Donal Vaughan last Sunday, the Ballinrobe man having failed to reappear for the second half. It turns out Donie’s got a hamstring injury and so he’s out for the Derry game as well. That means that Sunday’s team will show at least four changes from the side that started against Monaghan. So who is likely to come in?

The obvious replacement for Patrick Durcan at wing-back is Colm Boyle. Not a bad replacement, you’d have to say – Boyler got stuck in well in the second half the last day and I’d say he must be itching for a starting slot at this stage. He came on at centre-back last Sunday, though, when Stephen Coen pushed up to midfield after the restart and with Stephen out for Derry, Colm could get the nod at 6. If he does, David Drake – an unused sub the last day – could come in on the wing. A less likely choice – but one that could work fine – would be to field Ger Cafferkey at centre-back.

Danny Kirby for Donie at midfield seems an obvious swap. It’s incredible (but it’s true) that Danny’s appearance off the bench last Sunday was his first ever League appearance for the county and his positive showing then surely merits a full debut in Celtic Park.

Up front, Diarmuid O’Connor could be replaced by Alan Freeman, with the Aghamore man coming back in at corner-forward.  Jason Doherty could then switch back out to his more usual position at wing-forward, which was where he played the last day. But it’s also true that both Jason and Diarmuid foraged back deeply against the Farneymen, contributing to defence as well as attack, so if it’s a more deep-lying replacement that’s wanted, then Micheál Forde – who came on for Kevin McLoughlin the last day – could well be in line to make his full League debut up in the Walled City.

Finally, that Mayo News piece also reports that the current squad of 37 will be trimmed further, down to 32, for this year’s championship campaign. A few tough calls had to be made in undertaking the initial cuts last month and one suspects it won’t be any easier for Pat and Noel to tell another five lads that they’re surplus to requirements for the summer months.

With Cathal Carolan, Shane McHale and Richie Feeney all recuperating from injury and yet to feature this year, and several others – such as Chris Barrett (whom I spotted last Sunday with his ankle in a cast), Brendan Harrison, Jason Gibbons, Tom Parsons, Alan Dillon, Michael Conroy, Evan Regan and Andy Moran – due to return from injury prior to the end of the League campaign the scramble for places in the championship squad could well be manic enough. That’s tough on the lads themselves but from a supporters’ perspective it’s exactly the kind of competition you’d want to be seeing heading into the summer’s action.

20 thoughts on “More changes on the way for Sunday

  1. Thanks Willie Joe for picking up on my post!!

    While the ‘replacements’ you mention are top class, I still think the squad overall will be threadbare given the absentees that you list. It’s a very tough assignment; the very thought of Celtic Park makes me unwell and Derry (indeed all teams) will be hugely motivated, for one simple reason: survival. They should have beaten Tyrone and they will feel they have to pick up the points in this one, come hell or high water.

    You could argue also that our form is misleading: Kerry after their holidays, Monaghan beating themselves and Tyrone nailing us fair and square. Effectively we haven’t had a win of real substance.

    That said, I’d have to agree with most posters that some options have really emerged over the few games: the newbies, Aido in his roving role, Kevin Keane at FB, Donie at midfield, and the expectation of a really strong bench that could be properly utilised.

    The Donegal match in April might well be a critical one. We could be fitghting for survival or a semi place; either way, a harder ground and playing against parked bus specialists will make this a very interesting game indeed.

  2. Hopefully we might get to see Neil Douglas on Sunday. He wud be a good replacement for DOC at wing forward. Thus far he seems to be the only player not getting a fair crack from management.

  3. Why is the squad being cut back to 32?

    I would have thought that for A v B games management would want at least 35-40 players to pick from because of ongoing injuries through the season etc.

    Difficult to see who will not make it unless Evan Regan and others similar are unlucky enough not to make it because of injury.

  4. Derry is a nice test. A win we want to almost for certain secure division one status, a county we don’t have a good record against away, missing Donie n the three young lads. It will show if we truly have squad depth.
    Neil Douglas pulled his hamstring in the FBD against NUIG so he is likely being eased back in.
    By the time Sunday rolls around there might be several familiar faces ready.
    Would like to see a strategy of freshening up the middle eight. With this squad depth we have now I’d like to see us add in pacey players off the bench for the final 20 mins. A fresh pacey middle eight prevents the blankets counter attack cutting through.

  5. JPM I would be fairly sure in saying, that it’s for financial reasons that Pat and Noel have to make cuts to the panel at this time. The County Board will be very aware, following James Horan’s time in charge, of the enormous costs involved in preparing a team for a long season. And have no doubt, the new Chairman will want to give his brother every opportunity to make it a successful one.

    Cutting down the panel to 32 now, should save a good chunk of money in travel and other expenses, funds that could be much needed further down the road. I would also imagine that having been cut from the panel at this stage, doesn’t mean we have seen the last of these guys. I’m sure the Managers will be assuring them, that they still could have a part to play in the County setup in the future.

  6. It would be nice alright to see Neil Douglas in action on the half-forward line. He did well in his only game in the FBD League, scoring 4 points from play. I thought that he was one of Castlebar’s better players in the All-Ireland Club final last year as well. Maybe we might see Tom Cunniffe given a game at centre-half back too. This could then mean Ger Caff might be given a chance in this game at full-back with Kevin Keane at corner back. Eoin Bradley is back in the Derry panel this year. He can be deadly at full-forward. He is a tall lad too. He will take a bit of watching. Derry were very annoyed at some of the decisions that went against them in the Tyrone match, in the last few minutes. They will be a dangerous team. Hopefully some of the lads who have been out injured might be back for this game. Players like Parsons, Gibbons, Dillon, Conroy and Andy Moran. It would be great to see more of Danny Kirby too, again he was one of Castlebar’s better players in the club final last year against St. Vincents.

  7. A win away to Derry if we pull it off will be our most impressive one yet. Would be great to know we are practically safe and “enjoy” if that’s the word the final few games and would also give management the option for more experimentation without relegation fears.

    I am also going to include a pot my someone (hope they don’t mind) from another GAA forum that some of you here may have noticied in relation to season tickets:

    “Another thing that’s happening is on your attendance record you are listed as not attended for the next game in the future for example today is tuesday and i’ve not attended next Sundays game v Derry even thought it’s in 5 days time, unless i buy a time machine there is no way of attending a future game, i’ve heard that this tactic is used for qualifying for an AllIreland final ticket, you may have attended 65% of games up to and including the AllIreland semi final but when they use this idea you now fall below the 60% and won’t get a final ticket so season ticket holders beware make sure you are in the 80% or more bracket, now is the time to build up your attendance”

  8. I like the idea of the opposition full forwards having to face Cunniffe Keane Higgins.
    Placing Cunniffe at centre back has merits, but with those three that line feels really secure.
    Eoin Bradley is only around the six foot mark btw. But he’s a very good test for probably Keane.
    Great to see now if Kirby/Forde/Douglas can give us new options for half forward n midfield.

  9. Just looking back at last years first three league matches (yes I know, Doubting Thomas/John etc) and doing a comparison with this years first three, a pattern has emerged. If your forward line scores 2-18 one would assume that you would win most matches played. However when you concede 2-19 to a flaky team like Kildare as Mayo did in the opener last season, then you kinda stop blaming the much maligned Mayo forward and look at (A) your defence (B) your tactics.

    Goals cost Mayo last season in both league and championship…lots of goals. First three games saw us concede 5-47 and score 4-48. Next league match was v Westmeath who hadn’t won a competitive match in two seasons and we leaked a further three goals. In all in our league campaign we conceded 15 goals in eight games, the worst in all four divisions.

    In contrast this season (and to my surprise…so far) we have racked up a healthy 6-33 and conceded a mere 1-32. So we have achieved two things from last season, staunch the haemorrhage at the back and added in the goals tally up front. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why. We now have plugged the central spots at the back, stopped the only attacking show in town which was bursting from the half back line. Backs now defend, forwards attack. All help each other.

    The addition of Keane, Coen and Durkin has tightened the rear. Competition is genuine for places, O Boyle whom I rate seems to have lost out…for now but I rate him a better defender than Keegan. Durkin seems to be having a decent run. So thats a spot on the right up for grabs. Kirby is a massive plus. Should have been in years ago. Ronaldson whom I thought had been given a shot before is a revelation so far. He could become a Dooher or McHugh type link man. What hasn’t changed is some dire shooting when the heat comes on. Against Tyrone that was evident and Monaghan, a team who came trying to thug us, should have been blown off the pitch inside the first fifteen minutes.

    My preference was for McStay, I felt the team needed to be taken in a new direction. I still do but Holmes has impressed me so far. Any man who managed a team to a league title without Kenny Mortimer, Pat Fallon, James Horan, Ciaran McDonald, Kevin O Neill and partial use of Jimmy Nallen has many arrows for his bow.

  10. John Cuffe “My preference was for McStay, I felt the team needed to be taken in a new direction. I still do but Holmes has impressed me so far”

    Don’t forget Connelly either

  11. Steve, qualifation for your all-Ireland ticket is based on your attendance PRIOR to the final, not including the final as per page 4 of this document. There would be war otherwise!

    So one less conspiracy theory for them to worry about!

    Great update WJ. I too hope Kirby features the next day. Early days yet for the likes of Boyler who I would imagine along with Andy, Alan etc is a little more behind in terms of fitness etc. I fully expect him to feature in the starting 15 as we head into summer. Though the competition for places is fierce at the minute – long may it last.

  12. Good points john, but I do rate Keegan & Boyle as the 2 best half backs around so both will figure in the summer. And both are good defenders. But yes, great to see just one goal conceded.

    On another topic the return of Paul Galvin is bizarre. Hard to see how he will contribute at this stage. Either way Kerry won’t retain Sam.

  13. Only one goal chance conceded yet to Tyrone in 2 1/2 games (Monaghan was 1/2 game).
    Full back line and full forward line with AOS/Cillian/Regan/Ronaldson/Freeman look healthy for championship.
    Main thing now will be high calibre bench options for the middle eight.
    Should be looking to use at least four subs in there in the final twenty minutes. Take off half backs/midfield partner of SOS/half forwards.
    If we secure our status in Division one it would be good to maximise the game time of new/returning players.

  14. I too have been singing Ronaldson’s praises. Only slight worry I have is that he shone previously in the league and seemed to, well, not shine in the championship.

    In any case, if you haven’t already seen it, take a look at this clip of him in club action a couple of years ago:

  15. Thanks for those stats.
    4 scores from 17 attempts from numbers 2-12.
    Very wasteful less than 25% accuracy.
    The backs shot 6 times without scoring!!

  16. John Cuffe,

    I don’t want to be pernickety but how did Westmeath come to be in Div 1 last year if, as you say, they had not won a competitive game for two years. Surely they had to have won a majority of their league games in 2013.

  17. I’m surprised Hall,O Connor,Durcan,D O Connor are held back for the U21 game three days later but i suppose it shows how serious the U21 championship it taken this year. Mayo seniors have enough strength in depth to cope anyway and i think some supporters need to start taking a league semi final spot as that is what management are aiming for.

  18. I’m actually happy enough that our U21s have been held back MO2015 – we really need to be making a very strong statement at that level, and we need to be bridging the gap between minor and senior as much as we can. What happened last year v. Roscommon just wasn’t good enough – it was men against boys and we were whipped off the field.

    Hopefully the preparation this year is far stronger and in the meantime, we should have enough of gas in the senior panel to get over the line on Sunday … one hopes …

  19. Also, out of respect to the U21 management the players had to be released back to them. They are, first and foremost, U21’s. I know how annoying it is, as an underage coach, when the team above wants your better players and you end up losing the very players you are trying to build your team around!
    Those lads are the future, let’s not rush them or expect too much from them. They need to be given time and space to make mistakes, to underperform and to learn “how to play” the game at Senior level. They need to be allowed to develop physically and mentally. We also must remember that Cillian was an exceptional talent who had not only the talent, skill and physique to operate at Senior intercounty level as an 18 or 19 year old, he also had the mentality, the application and the strength of character to go with it. That is very very rare in one so young.
    Let our future ie, Hall, Coen, Durcan, Gallagher, O’Connor, Lyons, C. O’Shea, Byrne etc. simmer away nicely in the background. I’d sooner they come through to senior level a year or two later but last 10 to 12 years when they get there.

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