With a couple of weeks to go to Salthill, thoughts begin to turn to selection of the team. We all have our views on how we should line out and it would be interesting to hear what the preferred line-ups would be. However, rather than just putting names to a 1-15 list, I suggest that responses to this post would explain WHY each person is picked – not just from the perspective of the attributes of the individual player – but from the perspective of the tactics that you would like to see deployed.
So to throw this particular ball in, here’s my line-up.
There are three options for the No. 1 shirt. All are high quality and it is hard to choose one, but I would go for David Clarke, due to his ability to command the square and his ability to vary the kick outs – giving us a number of different restart options.
For No. 2, I would go for Turbo Tom Cunniffe. He is one of the hardest and fastest men around. Croke Park is still shaking from the thundering shoulder he delivered to Peter Harte in 2013 and we need such steel in the deepest defensive line. I would go for Kevin Keane at No. 3 as he is very athletic, teak tough and afraid of no one. He is continuing to improve and he could be a big player for us this year. At No. 4, I would go for Ger Cafferkey as he is a very tight man marker. Look at the stats of the guys he marks when he is in the corner. They don’t get a smell of the ball. As well as that he is a good distributer.
(Hmmm … where’s Zippy, you ask? I’ll come to that later!)
In the half-back line, I couldn’t look beyond Lee Keegan at No. 5. One of the best link players in the game, he is one of the heartbeats of Mayo football. First surprise of the day would be No. 6, where I would install Seamus O’Shea. Sheamie is a defensive midfielder and a dogged tackler. He works his socks off and I think he would provide a great addition to the defensive spine of the team. On the other side, Boyler would be the automatic choice. Like Lee Keegan, he empties the tank every time. He doesn’t seem to have any concept of fear.
At No. 8, I would go for Tom Parsons. Tom has a great pair of hands and is probably the best kick passer we have. With the summer likely to be covered in blankets, Tom’s 30/40 metre kicks could unlock a few defences for us. At No. 9, I would go for Aidan O’Shea. This man’s best days are always in the middle of the park. His fielding and strength are as good as the best in Ireland and centrefield gives him much more space to operate. His use in the full-forward line has been interesting, but when his space is limited (as in a blanket defence) he is inclined to run into tackles. Also, he is a good man to take points from distance.
At No. 10, the other heartbeat of Mayo football, Kevin McLoughlin, has to get the nod. He drops back when Keegan attacks, hoovers up behind centrefield, links to the full-forward line and chips in a few scores as well. At No. 11, the next surprise – Cillian O’Connor. Cillian is a great passer, with both hands and feet. He has a great eye for who is moving inside for a pass and he has no problem finding the posts. At No. 12, I would go for the Doc. In my view, this guy is continuing to improve. He is constantly making runs, turns over more opposition ball than any other forward in the country and is not afraid to go for a goal when it is on.
(Still no Zippy? I’m coming to that!)
At No. 13, I would go for Alan Dillon as he still has the X Factor. He has had the highest shot to score ratio in the team for nearly every game he plays and showed in the league that he is always good for scores. In addition, his positioning is excellent. At 14, I would give Danny Kirby the nod. He has a great pair of hands and knows where the posts are. I think he could be the find of the season. And at 15 – yes, you’ve been patient – but I would throw a complete curved ball here and give Keith Higgins the shirt. Strange call you might say, but just think about it. He can defend, he can burst through the line, he can pass, he is lightning fast and he can score. He could operate anywhere on the field but if we want him bursting through, I would rather see that happening on their 45 than on ours. Another blanket buster option. Also, Keith if has a weakness it is that he relies too much on his speed to close down his man. That sometimes catches him out, but if he is given a “free spirit” role in the opposition half, I don’t know any back in the country that would like to mark him.
So there it is. Strength down the middle, tight markers in the corners, power and accuracy in centre field, wing backs and wing forwards who will go hammer and tongs all day, foot passers and scorers up front.
The thought of it. I can feel the blood rising! Bring on 14th June.
Have a think about your own fifteen and let the debate begin.
Keep the Faith!