No Twin Towers as four named to make championship debuts

The team for this Saturday evening’s championship opener against Sligo at Markievicz Park (throw-in 5 pm) has been named and the starting fifteen is as follows:

Mayo CSFC v Sligo: David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites); Chris Barrett (Belmullet), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Tom Cunniffe (Castlebar Mitchels), Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore); Tom Parsons (Charlestown), Ronan McGarrity (Ballina Stephenites); Andy Moran (Ballghaderreen), Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy), Trevor Mortimer (ShruleGlencorrib); Conor Mortimer (ShruleGlencorrib), Alan Freeman (Aghamore), Enda Varley (Garrymore).

There are, obviously, plenty of talking points about this selection. Debutants first: four players – Chris Barrett, Seamus O’Shea, Alan Freeman and Enda Varley – are named to make their first ever championship starts. Chris and Seamus have both been around for a fair while and, but for injuries, would surely have featured for us in the championship before now. Both enjoyed good NFL campaigns and, despite the fact that both might arguably have lost out had everyone been fit, they still richly deserve their respective places in Saturday’s team.

The inclusion of Alan Freeman and Enda Varley in the starting fifteen means that Aghamore and Garrymore both provide players for the same county team in a championship match for the first time in around a quarter-century (when Jimmy Burke and Johnny Monaghan would have been in the thick of things). I’m delighted to see both lads get the nod as both (especially Enda) showed sparkling form during the league and they deserve a shot on the starting fifteen at this time of year.

This does, though, mean that last year’s Twin Towers of Barry Moran and Aidan O’Shea have both been omitted this time out. The former is, in all likelihood, injured again (this is Big Baz we’re talking about here) but Aidan has undoubtedly been dropped. Undeservedly so? When you think about some of the NFL final performances put in by others, you’d have to think that Aidan is a tad unlucky to be included in a list of three (along with Liam O’Malley and Mark Ronaldson) from that no-show to lose their places. If performances in that match counted for anything, then Tom Parsons and Trevor Mortimer can certainly count themselves as damn lucky to make the first fifteen this Saturday evening.

Injuries do appear, however, to have narrowed Johnno’s options somewhat. Having lost the centre-back position to Tom Cunniffe, Trevor Howley then suffered a hamstring injury and that explains his absence. Alan Dillon would have been a certain starter (almost definitely on the forty, which would have made no bloody sense but there you go) and Pat Harte would have been pushing for a place too. Once Alan was out (and Killer as well), the obvious choice was to go with the half-forward line that started the league campaign so well but both Andy and Trevor now need to repay Johnno’s confidence in them with the kind of performance we haven’t seen from either in a while.

Overall, Saturday’s team sees eight changes from the side that started in our last championship match, against Meath last August, with only Donal Vaughan, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins, Andy Moran, Ronan McGarrity, Tom Parsons and Trevor Mortimer having also started that day. Ten of this year’s NFL final starting fifteen also line out on Saturday, with the injured Trevor Howley and Alan Dillon, as well as Liam O’Malley, Mark Ronaldson and Aidan O’Shea giving way.

That’s it, then – that’s the team that will carry our hopes into the start of this year’s championship and which will hopefully secure victory for us in Markievicz Park this Saturday evening.

35 thoughts on “No Twin Towers as four named to make championship debuts

  1. Some big calls.
    I feel sorry for AOS
    A very small full forward line. i cant see where the scores are going to come from.

  2. Some interesting selections. OK with the defence, Parsons needs to raise his game but like the idea of SOS at CHF. Agree that Varley deserves his place, impressed with him during the league, worried about HF line in terms of scoring ability, interesting to see how Freeman will do at FF, but has he had much game time in recent challenge game. This is a chance for forwards to stake a claim what with Killer, AOS, Dillon and Harte not available/selected. Are Varley and Conor our free takers? May be a risk…. I think that our attacking half backs may swing the game, and as living in Sligo, sincerely hope that this is the case.

  3. yes a full small forward line but will that be the time could be a change there before the throw in is barry moran injured sligo will love this advantage to them i can say. aidan should be starting need to test the back maguire not so great under high ball.

  4. some big calls alright JR. I hope the manager has also learnt to make big calls during the game because having seen the team he is more than likely going to have to make them.

  5. It’s a big gamble by Johnno to go with such an inexperienced full-forward line. He has been criticised in the past for his conservative selections but he certainly can’t be accused of that with this team. It’s hard to see much high ball going in with this selection but we could stretch the Sligo backs with good early ball. It will be interesting for sure and you can be certain that the knives are already being sharpened in case we don’t come away with the result.

  6. After seeing that line up it has all the makings of an upset on Sunday. I wonder why JOM has never tried AOS further out the field. He was outstanding there for the minors. I wonder if Donaghy had never come along at FF for Kerry would AOS ever have been played at FF.

  7. Anybody got any idea of who’s on the bench? If this game is in the melting pot with fifteen minutes to go it’s the bench that could – or might have to – swing it Mayo’s way.

  8. Didnt think JOM would pick anything even close to that team. Its a very light full forward line but hopefully the three lads give the full back line something to think about. Tom Parsons really needs to stand up and be counted on Saturday and Im expecting a big game from him. Looking forward to seeing how Seamus O Shea gets on. Come on lads

  9. Looking at the team i think JOM is trying to get the mix right. This could be the team to trouble Sligo. We have loads of pace and skill in the forwards, solid backs with attacking flair and a mobile midfield. AOS will get his chance later and may be the hero yet. Lets support the boys now. Every Sligo man i meet are cock sure there will be an upset here. Get ready for war lads!

  10. Don`t know about a small light FF line has anyone stood beside Alan Freeman lately?He must be 6 3 and built and Enda is strong when he`s on the ball and do`ya know it`s a long time since I saw Connor come out the wrong side of a tackle.
    No it`s further out I`d be worried about.The middle third will have work like fuck to deliver the right ball into these boys.I think maybe do your suggestion,WJ of Parsons on the 40.I think O`Shea should start at MF where I feel Ronan needs a big man to give him more cover.All in all it looks fresh and I`d be happy but I too would like to see the bench…does anyone know is it 25 players total this year?

  11. First of all i want to say i love mayo gaa, im not a fair weather supporter or of the mayo ‘old school’ but what the hell is johnno at? Is that the most uncreative cf line in championship football? What were the lessons learned from the league? andy,trevor not good enough,tom parsons has no backbone or presence.I know freemans form in two friendlies lately has been good but his league form was awful, is that enough? pheeeeew i’ve never said a bad word about mayo gaa until this year but whats going on… Wj please put yourself forward for the mayo job!

  12. No subs will be named till the day, I think. Not sure what the rule now is but I have an idea that it’s a playing panel of 25 max for each game.

  13. Im stunned and probably so are Sligo not what i expected altough last minute changes cannot be ruled out. Our cf line seems limited but our ff line with no aos or bm looks tame.Still we have to trust jom he sees the lads in training and he should know who is on form.Id like to see the subs because the winning of this match may lie there.Istill think we will win nothing without a settled team but for now up jom and Mayo but WJ keep yourself available for a change in career you will have plenty of support from here

  14. I think that is a brave selection but ultimately the right one, AOS has been walking with lead in his boots lately and Barry is injured or MIA. Varley and Freeman will be mobile and hold ball and let the half forwards drop in drop in behind them. I can see goals because Sligo have prob spent the best part of their training focusing on combating the big man inside and now their game plan has been thrown. If this dosn’t work we can drop in the big men but I think Mort, Varley and Freeman will make hay!

  15. I’d be happy enough with lineout to be honest. I think Johnno has pulled a smart one. Sligo won’t have prepared for this full forward line at all.
    Mayo by 4 points

  16. Its a throw back to 1975 V Sligo. Back then the frame of the 1974 U21 All-Ireland winning team lined out v Sligo in the CF final. Thrown in too soon , it was to spell the end for most of them. Johnno has gone for the bulk of the 2006 U21 team with Parsons, Vaughan and Freeman from a later vintage.Had Barry, Killer and Howley been available it would be almost the 2006 team. Despite winning 6 league games the loss to Cork in the final seemed to throw the backroom into chaos. A long series of injury sapping challenges, Aiden O Shea flat as a pancake and Cunniffe in from the wilderness. We have taken a huge step backwards and I would worry about our future. Suddenly we see the loss of Brady, Nallen, Heaney, McDonald and O Neill as major. O Mahony never replaced them. Sligo will have the similarily aged O Hara on the bench Sat. McDonald will be on the terrace.

  17. Just a question about the match lads: The throw-in time on my tickets says 3:00p.m. but I thought it was 5? Is there a match before it?

  18. According to the Connacht GAA website, there’s an U17 development match, also between Sligo and Mayo, on at 3 pm on Saturday.

  19. Well that is a surprising team.
    Very happy with the half-back line, I was sure Johnno would bring Peadar back in at the expense of one of the younger lads.

    I’m actually looking forward to seeing how that full forward line works. I don’t see it as being weak or lacking in physicality at all. All 3 can handle themselves.
    And if this line works well on Saturday, we have another option to raining high ball in on top of O’Shea/B Moran for the rest of the (hopefully long) summer.

    It was always Johnno’s apparent conservatism that troubled me, well he’s shocked me with that team. I know injuries dictated some of it, but he’s still taking a gamble. But that is actually what encourages me. He sees the lads in training, knows their attitude/confidence levels etc. so he must have seen something in them over the past few weeks.
    There were big calls to be made and I don’t think he would have gambled as he did unless he had confidence in the players. We’ll soon find out if that confidence was misplaced.

    This game is massive for the likes of Parsons, T Mort and A Moran. They’ve taken a lot of (justified) criticism recently, so let’s see if they can react in a positive way. This will show us what they’re made of.

    Mayo by 3

  20. When we all trooped out of Croke Park only a few weeks ago, our heads were full of dark thoughts about lads not being good enough, changes needing to be made, coming up with a new plan, etc. We poured this out as a mixture of advice and frustration on this site in the days following that defeat.

    Well when we look at the team for Sunday, we can see that Johnno has taken at least some of this advice to heart. Yes there are big questions. But remember that Parsons was Man of the Match in his first championship outing against Sligo two years ago. And for years we have been talking about how Trevor gets stuck in. And we forget that part of the reason he was like a lost sheep in the League Final was that he got a huge knock 5 mins into the game. He should have been replaced on the spot and I have no doubt he now feels that he has something to prove on Saturday. And Andy always seems to be at the centre of organising and motivating everyone – he just needs to concentrate on his own game a bit more too. And in the backs, I’m really glad to see Tom Cunniffe at No 6. He is a big tight marker with loads of pace – in many ways he is like a younger version of Kerry’s Mike McCarthy. And I have no problem with many of the usual names being left on the sideline. After all, expecting something different while you keep trying the same thing is just a way of frustrating yourself.

    What we really need now is the lads that are picked to step up to the plate and play like a team of leaders. Yes we need to win this game, but the manner of winning should also be important. I am hoping for a performance like Kerry gave against Tipp a few weeks ago. Weather the storm for 60 mins and push on to a convincing win from there.

    Keep the Faith!

  21. There seems to be some concern about the full-forward line selection. Anyone who has watched club football over the past few years or recent challenge matches, will know Alan Freeman can win any sort of ball and is a great fielder of the ball. I relaise that the step up to intercounty senior championship is a big one, but I reckon Freeman will show us all his true class on Saturday.

    On a separate note, Aghamore and Tooreen clubman, Adrian Freeman, was fatally injured in a car accident last weekend in Australia. He will be sorely missed by all his friends and club mates. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

  22. I really think we are overdoing the worrying about this game, where as i believe Sligo should be respected, i believe we are a far better team. Johno has been shrude here in his selection as i believe B. Moran is available. I think its only a guess mind, that he will run with his selection for a while but Moran or O Se will be introduced before the interval. Our defence will be well capable for the type of threat Sligo pose as simplistic as it sounds our defence will be suited for a lively chest high type ball game, i would go as far to say probably up there with the best in Ireland to cope with this type of attack. A completely different story with Cork/Kerry type of forward line though.

  23. Just from reading the comments hear and listening to people say Sligo will be ready for this ff line, im sure they are laughing because im pretty sure the thought of having to face the twin towers + c mort would have been alot more daunting

  24. well to be honest with ye all now if you think johns doing a wrong job y dont u take his place,i doubt u would be able!!
    let him pick hes team,at the end of the day hes the manger!!
    another thing i dont get the realy reson y tom is such a great player.?? hes like any other player!!
    plus u might think he was good in the frindly games put wait til we meet tyrone and all the big teams!!

  25. Christ the Hoganstand crowd have arrived, good man the sam!

    lads wheres Austie in this line up? 😉

    Feck it, in fairness to Johnno, this is far short of a TD sorta, sit on the fence, tis not my job sorta selection. I honestly dont know much about the individual Sligo players so really cant say if this has a shot of working or not. I reckon individually we are superior but you can be guaranteed Sligo will be well teed up and will be working very well as a team. Thats the big question for me, are we going to knuckle down, do whats required, graft, win the hard dirty ball and bust our arses for 70 minutes? If we do well I reckon we could win well. If we dont then its going to be a long day at the office with it being neck and neck, us not able to shake them and them maybe nicking it at the end.
    We HAVE to be hopping off the ground coming out – none of this play your way into the game shite, got stuck in right from the start. Dont be looking around waiting for someone else to do it, burst the tackles, burst them if the have the ball, die for the jersey. This is the championship, there is no tomorrow. COME ON MAYO!!!!

    Allright, I’ll take my tablets Saturday I promise.

  26. Good man, ECE – they should pin that up on the door of the dressing room! You don’t have any spare tablets, do you? I’d say I could do with a few myself before Saturday is out.

  27. Or ece we could have a structured game plan, exploit sligos weakness i.e. a light,relatively small full back line that are reasonably fast. What does johnno do.. Should have too much for them anyways.. f*ck sake lads, its sligo, what is this place going to be like for the connacht final *should we get there

  28. Four goal and East Cork (and wj of course!!!) ye have the finger in the pulse! What an exciting prospect we have in store on sat eve. A brave selection, a very young mayo team, a lot of pace and talent, a reduced quotient of psychological baggage, it’s a matter of letting the youth have its head. Go for it without fear or agrrogance, make it happen!! Bring it on!!!

  29. I got a chill reading Ontheroad. Fair play to the boys talking up the team and flying the flag but it’s very hard to dismiss or take Ontheroad’s points lightly. I really hope things click tomorrow. But I’m not at all confident.

    Very strange to feel like this on the eve of Championship, when normally all hopes are high and the road stretches long ahead. Right now, I wouldn’t advise anyone to think past a quarter to seven on Saturday evening. Just in case.

  30. Well this is it! I think we will win and I hope we do so in style as well. I feel AOS will have a role if not in this game then later on. But he needs to learn a few things first. So having him sit on the bench should be just what is needed to get him to start that learning process. When he does learn…..watch out……he has the potential to put the fear of god in any backline. I just hope he develops his true potential…..and the sooner the better.

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