Reinforcements ready for Croke Park

The Mayo News has some good news to report on player availability for Saturday evening’s NFL Division One clash against Dublin at Croke Park (throw-in 7pm), which means that James Horan should have plenty of options to choose from when settling on a starting fifteen for this one.

Andy Moran, who missed the last two matches with shoulder ligament trouble, is fit and ready to go again and so too is Chris Barrett, who has been out all year with a knee problem but who took a full part in training last Friday. The returning Castlebar Mitchels trio of Tom Cunniffe, Barry Moran and Richie Feeney also made it to training on Friday and all three are also available for selection for Saturday night.

That same report states that Colm Boyle, Jason Gibbons and Cillian O’Connor all sat out Friday’s session because of minor knocks and bruises but the three of them are all expected to be fit to play on Saturday night as well. Assuming they are, then I’d say it’s very likely we’ll see an unchanged team – or one close to it – being named to face the All-Ireland champions. Sean Rice in his column reckons that Brendan Harrison and Shane McHale are the two players most under pressure but he reckons that, despite this, James well may be minded to start both of them at Croke Park.

56 thoughts on “Reinforcements ready for Croke Park

  1. Hope Barrett starts 4 myself! Other than that no problems with an unchanged team

    K Mc M could be the Dubs’ dangerman

  2. Great news, we’re almost at full strength now.

    Even so, I’d stick with the likes of Harrison, McHale, Gibbons, Doc and Sweeney.
    It’s fine trying out players in certain league games, but there’s no point reverting back to the tried and trusted just because we’re playing the AI champions in Croke Park.

    These lads need to be trusted enough no matter the opposition, they’re either good enough or they’re not. Now’s the time to find out.
    Come championship time, their experience in a game like this could be invaluable.

    We know what players like Cunniffe, Barrett and the 2 Moran’s can do, they should have to fight to get their starting jersey back.

    Mayo by 4

  3. Thanks for that update WJ, as per usual your on the ball! It just shows that any player that starts really has to perform or they could find themselves out in the cold very quickly. It’s now up to the player’s themselves to grab their chance when it’s presented to them.

  4. I wonder will Kevin mc start for the dubs the mayo defence need to have to men on him. He is the dangerman

  5. Not to be outdone Willie Joe, the Mayo News also has the views of Liam McHale on the midfield issue or dilemma. Normally Liam’s interventions leave me a bit cold, and I think his suggestion of moving Aidan O’Shea to FF is off the wall (it was only by moving back to midfield under JH that he resurrected his fading Mayo career).

    However, he does have a point about midfield role agains the very top teams who will target him, and that he needs to take less hits which use up so much gas, and move the ball quickly and get into the spaces. This and comments on Jason and Seamie are at:

    http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19626:midfield-matters-for-mayo&catid=14&Itemid=100008

  6. I agree in everything you say bar the scoreline. Mayo by 2. But let’s not split hairs!

  7. thats all good WJ, near full strength, saw Alan Dillon going through his paces with the team as well, I expect him to sit out the league, As Dan said keeping the young lads in the team for Sat Night would def bring them on, if you dont feel a bit of fire in the belly playing the dubs in what now appears to be their home ground even if only in the league then you should not be playing football, i do think we will win by the way, maigheo abú

  8. Right on there lads, yes it’s crucial that Horan sticks more or less to the team that started against Cork to start against the Dubs. Any favours shown to the returning stars would in my view, completely undermine all his good work in building up a squad. Let the word go out to all the players, that from now on new house rules apply, the honour of wearing the Mayo jersey is no longer a given….

  9. I’d like to see this team line out Saturday in Croker:

    Robbie Hennelly;
    Tom Cunniffe, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins;
    Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle;
    Aidan O’Shea, Jason Gibbons;
    Kevin McLoughlin, Jason Doherty. Richie Feeney;
    Mikey Sweeney, Alan Freeman, Cillian O’Connor.

    Solid defence to stop the leaks and a balanced forward line that will rack up a big score!

  10. There’s not much pace up front though and that’s the dilemma with moving Keith back.

  11. What ever happens Saturday night the one thing that must happen is that we score goals. Since the goal fest of the 2011 we have payed dublin about 6 times and have scored only 1 goal. Andys last september . Another point I believe is critical that players that carry the ball into the tackle are really causing the team problems. We won’t get away with it in Croke Park .we need to move it faster and stop the basic mistakes. One thing that James and his team have not yet managed to solve is the periods of play that we seem to fall asleep as a team. This is crucial . We need to keep the score board ticking over. On the 25th minute we need no less than 6 points on the board ,by the 50th at least 12 and by the end of the game around 18 . Them sums can be made up of either goals or points These are the trends the more successful teams have.
    But make no mistake we need to score goals to beat this dublin team .

  12. If that’s the team that starts for us then I’d be very confident of a win. Full back line looks rock solid.

  13. I seen on one of the Dublin GAA forumns that Bernard Brogan was having a fitness test last night to determine if he will be playing at the weekend. That would be a big boost to Dublin, if he is fit to play, especially with Alan Brogan back playing. They are very dangerous when both of them are playing together. We should remember that Cork went five points up against us, Dublin would be harder to reel in, if that happened again. Also with their greater goal scoring threat, there would probably be a bigger chance of them scoring goals if they were on top like that at the beginning of the match. We need to be wary of their forwards.

  14. There’s a report in this morning’s Irish Examiner on this (here) which confirms that Bernard Brogan had a fitness test last night but the player himself is quoted as saying that, depending on the outcome of the test, he might play some club football this coming weekend before returning for Dublin the week after. Make of that what you will.

  15. I wouldn’t care if Brogan or Connolly play or not. JH should be looking to tightening our defence back to the level it was last year and building more momentum with the forward-line that’s showing promising form.
    Let the Dubs do their best and we do better!

  16. Lads I think it is absolute madness to have the castlebar lads back training 4 days after playing an all Ireland final! Those lads have been going none stop since last January for club and county so I would have thought horan would give them some break especially with all the talm of player burnout and injuries. Fpr example Ballinderry players were given a few weeks before returning to Derry? I doubt that the vincents lads were back with dublin over the weekend or am I wrong?

  17. One night training wouldn’t really hurt the lads. Maybe they’re being eased back in e.g, 1 night last week, 2 nights this week. To be honest its not a lot, And it’s no harm to take their minds off the post-mortems

  18. no disrespect but I don’t believe in this ‘either good enough or they’re not’ approach with new guys on the panel. New fellas at this level need at least 2/3 years before you can expect them to be consistently challenging for a starting place.

    What Harrison, Drake, Gallagher, Sweeney should be aiming for is to make the championship panel on match day. There’s a lot of competition for places now (which is a great thing).

  19. I agree.
    I remember a number of years ago seeing Cunniffe getting the run around in Newbridge & i thought he would never make a corner back–how wrong i was.
    we should try something new for this match–perhaps O Shea at FF.
    Unlike the AI we must set the agenda instead or reacting all the time.

  20. They might be glad to get back into the county fold, and get the club loss out of their system.
    Also, the rest of the Mayo squad have played far more games since January than the Mitchels lads, they only had the semi-final and final.

  21. Maybe but I’m sure the players would like the break as they didn’t get a winter break whereas mayo lads did. I think it’s just somewhat unreasonable as players give up their social lives too for an amateur game. I’m sure the lads might have liked a night out Friday/Saturday or a weekend away to get away from football but they’re straight back to the grind.

  22. I don’t know the setup but I would assume its not being dictated to them that attendance is mandatory immediately. I agree they deserve a break especially the inter county guys. They did have last weekend off. Pretty sure they are probably sick of the beer now after a week to drown their sorrows.

  23. From what I’ve heard, pk, the Vincents lads are meant to be taking a 3-week break following the All-Ireland, which would mean that unless Dublin reach the semis, they’ll miss the whole League. We’ll see soon enough, I guess, if this is what happens in practice.

  24. I like the look of that forward line and I think your comment on a balanced forward line is interesting.

    What constitutes a balanced forward line? Should we be choosing a forward line based on the balance as opposed to the individuals?
    I would suggest that the 2 main attributes we would need to look at is the player’s scoring ability and the player’s ability to create scores for others (through pace, winning possession quality of pass, vision etc). Every forward is going to have certain balance in their abilities between taking scoring chances and their ability to create chances for others.

    To me Alan Freeman is our main scoring threat and his skills are skewed towards converting chances as opposed to directly creating chances for others. But he would be useless if he cant get the right type of ball from the half forward line and the wing backs.

    Kevin McLoughlin and COC I believe are the most equally balanced players that we have between their score taking and creating skills.
    Jason Doherty is more of a score taker than creater as Richie Feeney I believe would be more a score creater.

    I have liked the look of Mikie Sweeney so far, particularly because of his link play and his ability to create scores for others. Although it is early in the day to judge I feel this ability sets him apart from and above the likes of M.Conroy and E.Varley who I don’t believe create chances for those around them.

    Thinking like this I can see the reasons that K. McL moving into corner forward hasn’t worked so well for the team- we lose to much in terms of score creation and gain very little in terms of score taking (as Kevin regularly score 2-3 point from wing forward).

    I also think Cillian needs to be in corner forward- he adds alot in terms of creating and scoring goal chances in that inside line while we have others who can create scores from the half forward line (ie win breaks and play high quality ball into the full forward line)- eg Andy Moran.

    For those reason my choice of half forward line would be

    A.Moran,-wins breaks and plays great ball into full forward line (creater)

    J Doherty- adds to our long range point taking ability and can score goals running through the middle (scorer)

    K McL- Wins breaks, kicks scores, plays great ball inside- (both)

    Full forward line;

    Mikie Sweeney- Adds more score creation/link play ability than others (Creator)

    A.Freeman- Our biggest scoring threat so far this year (Scorer)

    COC- Can score or create and great freetaker (Both)

    So what would Keith Higgins add to the half forward line?
    Does he win as many breaking balls as Andy of K.Mc?- I don’t think so
    Are the passes he plays into FF line as good as those above?- Again I don’t think so
    Does he score from wing forward?- I would think he scores as much from corner back
    Does his speed create chances for the other forwards?- Probably yes but depends on the opposition and do his overlapping runs from corner back not also create chances?

    My opinion on Keith is that the team gains more from him at corner back and he should play primarily in this role- to be moved to the wing forward position if needed during a game or occasionally to start there depending on opposition.

    I don’t have stats to back up my thoughts (would be interesting to see assists stats) and I am likely oversimplifying things but I believe getting a good balance is crucial for our chances this year.

  25. The big difference here is that with Vincents winning the AI the players are in a good place right now, and in no need of a pick-me-up. Our lads on the other hand are probably more than happy to get back to the panel, even if it’s only for some light training. I would be more than surprised though if any of them will be involved at the start.

  26. Mayo Maori -terrific post. Great analysis and observations. I would love to be able to write like that !!!

  27. Dublin often play midfielders on the wings and that’s where most of Cluxton’s kickouts will be directed. O’Sullivan is rarely targeted nor even McAuley who is a natural fielder of the ball.

    Pushing Vaughan out to the wing on kickouts is a sound tactic and one that’s been used before but I would like to see Seamus O’Shea or even Gibbons dropping back to cover the opposite wing. Let Keegan pick up McAuley and cover his runs off the ball where he typically does damage.

  28. Mayo Maori – Asked and answered – Can’t fault your logic.

    Only question mark is finding the right position for our Captain – Since the injury, Andy hasn’t recovered his pace over the vital first ten yards, so it’s an inside role getting very accurate ball put his way or the 11 shirt picking up mid-field breaks and creating with forward passes to players moving ahead of him.

    Interesting to see the Doc raising the tempo with the players before the Kerry game – a role Andy does well,

  29. I agree with what you’re saying there about player development JPM.

    I just meant that if the management thought they were good enough to play against Westmeath/Kerry etc then they should think they’re good enough to play against the AI champions in Croke Park.

    Bringing the established players back in would send out the wrong message to those lads about how their ability is viewed.

  30. Thanks Joe Mc.

    Cloud 9- I agree that Andy has lost some of his pace and change of direction speed also. I would put him on the 40 at wing forward as I think it plays to his strengths more ie vision, passing, winning breaks.

    Particularly I’ve liked how Doc has done at 11, but Sat night will tell us more about how he’ll do there.

  31. According to a Richie Feeney interview I read before, the Castlebar lads took a break after the Connacht Final, essentially the month of December.

  32. Look. We have seen enough of Dublin.
    If not we are in trouble. Fill your boots with the 7/4.
    Come back to me when you’ve wagered €100 to gain €275.
    Joey doesn’t mess around . Fill your boots now.

  33. Yeah it’ll be very interesting to see what Dublin team will line out. Alan Brogan was their best forward against Derry. With Paddy Andrews, Kevin McManamon and Eoghan O’Gara also available, it will still be a great test for the Mayo back-line to see how they will get on against quality forwards. Hopefully it will be their back-line that will be under the most pressure!

  34. I’d have to agree, really good analysis there Mayo Maori, that’s a great way to assess a forward’s main strengths. In relation to Andy Moran, he can also score really well too, he’s a great man to kick an inspirational point when it’s needed most. You’d love to see him get back to his best as his leadership skills are second to none. Cillian and Alan Freedom are also great leaders too. That’s another very important attribute that all of the best forwards have. They have what it takes to take on the responsibility of getting the vital scores when they are needed.

  35. It great to see so many players back.. What I would like to see more than anything on Saturday night is James Horan sitting up in the stand (as he has been up to now) looking at the game and seeing the game as we the spectators see it and discuss week in week out on this great Blog. I would like to see him make quick reasoned changes.. if someone is not performing or giving 100%.. take them off.. if lads are getting tired later in the game and start to slow.. introduce a few fresh faces. We need to empty out the panel in such a way as to have the most impact on the game.. as soon as we can but keeping some in reserve for black cards. I agree that he needs to keep faith with the players that have performed up to now.. but there is no room for sentimentality based on past MOTM awards if they are starting to be found out in croker. I for one need reassurance on this aspect of our game.. and looking forward to keeping a close eye on it in Croke Park come Saturday night.

  36. What is frustrating about our last match with Dublin and the current attitude, among bloggers at any rate, is the reversal of the relationship, with Dublin seen to be holding all the aces.

    But in 2012, we destroyed them, second guessed them, outfoxed Cluxton and all his kicking; showed the way to all on how to beat the Dubs. But it seems we relaxed a bit too much in 2013 and enabled Dublin to second guess us.

    I expect JH and Donie B however to give maximum thought to rectifying the balance. It will be important to get a strike on Gavin et al and so hold a psychological advantage for later meetings if they happen.

  37. Aidan o Shea needs to have a big game on Sat night both for his own sake and for the good of the team. I think he has a point to prove and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised he proved it.
    For Mayo to have won last Sep we would have needed a huge performance from him. That didn’t happen for a number of reasons not least the mobility of the Dub midfielders when in effect Aidan was acting as a defender for a lot of the time. That doesn’t really suit him or maximize his talents. JH might need to set up the team to allow Aidan the freedom to concentrate most of his energy on attack.

  38. Going off topic, but when are the Croke Park season tickets allocated for this one? I was sure they’d be done today.

  39. I actually seen that in one of the Dublin GAA forums, they were saying that Mayo had a bit of a hex over them before 2013 and they don’t want to start losing to us again. I also heard that Cian O’Sullivan could be out for Saturday too, with Bastic out as well, they could be short of midfielders, it’ll be interesting to see who will start there for the Dubs. If these players are out, we really need to take advantage of this.

  40. God Toe to hand, aren’t I glad I’m not the team Manager with fellas likes of you watching 🙂

  41. I wouldn’t bring 2012 into the debate. The Dubs were hung over that year no where near the level of 2011. Wexford should have beaten Dublin in the Leinster final and Laois also pushed them all the way that year.

  42. The top two ranked teams in Gaelic Football this decade so far do battle again this weekend. I think we will win this one but I hope that doesn’t resurrect our old Achilles’ heal – hype and far too high expectation from Mayo supporters. There will be a bigger day later this year that we will need to peak for, and I’d prefer if we weren’t favourite then.

    Rankings are really high averages and we’ve on various occasions since ’89 failed at the second last or final hurdled, when it mattered most.

    So what’s the different this.year? Well JH is now a manager that is much wiser and he’s discussing tactics right through the game with his fellow selectors.

    There also seems to be a calmness, a kind of ‘pressure is for tyres’ attitude, as we gradually return the squad to full player availability. I think the fitness is being managed to peak later this year and the experimenting with positions and new players is thought provoking and pushing boundaries. We now have a stronger squad and a forward line that taking shape.

    And I’d worry more about Aidan O’Shea not having enough rest than the three Castlebar lads.

    Victory this weekend and against Derry at home and let’s see where the semis take us. The performance this weekend and further progression is what matters, and the results will follow!

  43. It will be very interesting to see who will be playing on Dublin’s half-back line. If McCarthy goes to mid-field, with Brennan, O’Sullivan and McCaffery all missing, it looks like it will be a very experimental half-back line. Again Mayo should aim to target this line. Could Dublin’s 2014 season end up like the 2012 season? As Donegal found out last year, once you end up on the slippery slope, it’s very hard to gain traction again. Although you’d think that Dublin have a much larger panel to cope with injuries etc. and the Leinster championship should be easier to navigate than the Ulster championship. But any team that loses key players will struggle when they meet the top teams.

  44. Snuck into the Mayo training session last night. Interesting, very interesting. I’m not a betting man but after what I saw last night I might have some of those 7/4 odds.
    Interestingly, Kevin Keane looked a lot sharper than he has been of late and McHale levelled most that came his way.
    Hon Mayo.

  45. Out with it Pebblesmeller, and don’t be leaving us guessing 😉
    You said “interesting” 3 times, so apart from Kevin Keane and Shane McHale, what else was interesting?

  46. Don’t worry. I’m not going to leak any information for fear James might be looking in. Next thing MacHale Park will go into lockdown like last Summer ! You’d never know, my phone might be tapped !!! No point calling the gardai on that one 🙂

    That’s a good one David, “Loose lips sinks ships”.

  47. When you say you snuck in was it over the wall or was there an opportunity for anyone to go in and see the training? Wouldn’t worry about it. Most counties have a few around that are checking out the opposition. Chances are that Dublin have a few spies there as well.

  48. Shane Carthy and Mick McAuley is still a formidable pairing (if O’Sullivan is out… ), and with Cluxton putting so many of his kickouts to the wings where Paddy Andrews has been very effective they are probably less dependent on centrefield than any other team in the country.

    Dublin up against a very strong Mayo XV. Harrison and Cunniffe making for a tough looking full-back line. Higgins at 11 will cover midfield and ideally give A. O’Shea the kind of freedom to attack that posters have been looking for. All of our best performances have come with a ball-winner at 11, whether Higgins, Barrett or Feeney. Should be a great game.

  49. Just for the record, I believe Doc has been listed at CHF, but has actually lined out more at WF. I would have him down as a starter TBH, and that is ahead of feeney. He is very dynamic. He tackles well off the ball, wins breaks, can spot a pass, can carry ball and break a tackle, has pace, has an eye for goal, is stronger this year, makes smart runs, has a great work rate and is quite an intelligent player. He has more in the locker than most other options in my opinion and is probably one of the most complete players in our squad.

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