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As was well trailed yesterday, the Mayo News today carries the unwelcome report this morning (paper and digital variants) that we’ve suffered another significant injury blow ahead of our Round 2B qualifier against Fermanagh this coming Saturday. The bad news is that Charlestown midfielder Tom Parsons damaged his hamstring in training last Friday evening and so he’s definitely out of this make-or-break backdoor clash.
Tom’s unfortunate injury – he missed the London match this year as well – means that, with Jason Gibbons also out, the midfield pairing the next day will be totally changed from the one that lined out against Galway last month. The fact that we suffered such a bad hosing in the sector in that game means that it’s an area that Stephen Rochford and his selectors will, in any event, have been giving particular thought to but another enforced change there wouldn’t, one imagines, have been top of their wish-list coming into the qualifiers.
It’s worth noting that the former Ernesider player Barry Owens, writing in the Fermanagh Herald last week (here), identified midfield as a key battleground for Castlebar. He pointed to the Northerners’ strength in the sector, saying that Eoin Donnelly is “probably the best midfielder in Ulster if not in Ireland.” It’s clear that we’re going to need to have a good think about what pairing is best to deploy there on Saturday.
We’ve not devoid of options. Barry Moran should be okay to start, as should Seamus O’Shea, though personally I wouldn’t go with both of them in tandem. The case for switching Aidan O’Shea back to the engine room grows stronger with this injury blow too but is it time to reprise the O’Shea x 2 pairing we last used there in the championship in 2013? I’m not so sure.
More fluidity in that area could come in the form of U21s Stephen Coen and Diarmuid O’Connor, both of whom are, I’d reckon, cast-iron certainties to line out the next day. The Mayo News (still the digital and papers versions, I’m afraid) also notes that Donal Vaughan, Shane Nally and Alan Freeman – who are all pushing to start – play in that line with their clubs. Only Donie, however, has done so at county level and not with enormous success either.
All will be revealed later in the week, I guess – we’re set to name our team for Saturday’s match on Thursday or Friday. In the meantime, best of luck to Tom and here’s hoping he makes a rapid recovery. We are, I know, in one-slip-and-you’re-gone territory now but, all going well on Saturday, he’ll hopefully be available for us further down the line in this year’s championship.