We’re keeping with our habit, it would appear, of naming teams at odd hours of the night, with details of tomorrow’s team to face Kerry in our league opener at McHale Park (where throw-in is set for 2pm and not 2.30pm as I’ve been stating regularly over the past week) released close to midnight last night. Also, as is now the norm for us, no details of who’ll be on the subs bench has been placed in the public domain at this time. Here’s the team:
Mayo (NFL Division One v Kerry, 3/2/2013): David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites); Shane McHale (Knockmore), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Tom Cunniffe (Castlebar Mitchels), Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Chris Barrett (Belmullet); Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy); Lee Keegan (Westport), Richie Feeney (Castlebar Mitchels), Cathal Freeman (Aghamore); Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Jason Doherty (Burrishoole), Michael Conroy (Davitts).
Plenty of experimentation there, you’d have to say, with James persisting with his FBD gambit of deploying both Lee Keegan and Richie Feeney in the half-forwards. He also shifted Kevin McLoughlin (nominally at least) further forward, by naming the Knockmore man at corner-forward. Personally, I think we’re far better off with Lee in the half-backs – preferably at 6 – but this is the time of year to be trying out different formations and a match against the Kerrymen is a good occasion to test theories of this sort.
If experimentation is the theme of the moment, though, I’d like to have seen Keith Higgins being released from corner-back duties and given more licence to roam in the half-backs. Likewise, it’d have been good to give Donal Vaughan a run further up – ideally, alongside Aidan O’Shea in midfield – but James obviously must feel that, despite his many indifferent showings in defence for us last year, Donie is still the man for centre-back. In a similar vein, James also keeps faith with Jason Doherty – who starts tomorrow at full-forward – and the Burrishoole man really has to start doing something to repay this loyalty now.
Despite all of the experimentation, the only player set to make his league debut for us tomorrow is Aghamore’s Cathal Freeman (no relation to Alan, by the way – he’s a different Freeman altogether) who lines out at wing forward. In all, tomorrow’s team shows six changes from the one that started in last September’s All-Ireland final, with Kevin Keane, Colm Boyle, Barry Moran, Alan Dillon, Enda Varley and Cillian O’Connor all dropping out while Shane McHale, Tom Cunniffe (making his first competitive start since the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final), Chris Barrett, Seamus O’Shea, Richie Feeney and Cathal Freeman come in.