We named our match day panel earlier this afternoon for the game against Dublin at Croke Park on Saturday evening (throw-in 7.30pm). The starting team and subs are as follows:
Mayo (NFL Division One v Dublin 19/2/2022): Rob Hennelly (Breaffy); Lee Keegan (Westport), Rory Brickenden (Westport), Michael Plunkett (Ballintubber); Oisín Mullin (Kilmaine), Stephen Coen (Hollymount/Carramore, captain), Donnacha McHugh (Castlebar Mitchels); Matthew Ruane (Breaffy), Jordan Flynn (Crossmolina Deel Rovers); Bryan Walsh (Ballintubber), Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber), Jack Carney (Kilmeena); Paul Towey (Charlestown Sarsfields), Ryan O’Donoghue (Belmullet), Aiden Orme (Knockmore). Subs: Rory Byrne (Castlebar Mitchels), Sam Callinan (Ballina Stephenites), Padraig O’Hora (Ballina Stephenites), Eoghan McLaughlin (Westport), Enda Hession (Garrymore), Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), Conor O’Shea (Breaffy), Fergal Boland (Aghamore), Conor Loftus (Crossmolina Deel Rovers), Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Fionn McDonagh (Westport).
Right, there’s a bit to unpack from this.
First, it’s great to see that we’re continuing to name the full match day panel a few days ahead of the game. I could be wrong but I’m almost certain we’re the only Division One team doing this – Monaghan didn’t even announce a starting fifteen ahead of the game in Clones – but it’s good that we are. There’s nothing like a bit of transparency.
Second, let’s take the seven changes bit. That was unexpected – well, it was to me at any rate, as anyone who has listened to the preview episode of the podcast will have heard me confidently predict we’d have just one (enforced) change to the named team, with the injured Eoghan McLaughlin dropping out to be replaced by Mattie Ruane, with Stephen Coen shifting to the half-backs.
I could argue I got that bit right – Eoghan hasn’t been named to start while Mattie has, while Stephen is at 6 – but I had no inkling of the slew of other changes we’ve announced. As well as Mattie, into the team come Rory Brickenden, Oisín Mullin, Donnacha McHugh, Jordan Flynn, Jack Carney and Paul Towey, while, in addition to Eoghan, out go Brendan Harrison, Padraig O’Hora, Paddy Durcan, Conor O’Shea, Fionn McDonagh and Jason Doherty.
It’s hard to know what the story is with this much-changed side. Seeing as Harry, Doc and Paddy aren’t in the 26 at all, then you’d have to assume they’re injured or unavailable for other reasons. Harry limped off gingerly late on the last day but James said in the media briefing last week (of which more anon) that it was just a “niggle” and that the Aghamore man was “moving well now.” Not well enough to make the squad for Croker it would appear.
I’ve no clue what the story is with Jason or Paddy, neither of whom were mentioned in any injury bulletin. There’s no point speculating further on this, I guess.
And what to make of Eoghan’s listing among the subs? This isn’t a shock – seeing as, incredibly, UL fielded him last night in the Sigerson final and the player who was stretched off in Clones less than two weeks ago played the full game: how’s that for player welfare? – but it does stretch in a rather elastic manner the credulity of what James said to the press last week.
Which was that although Eoghan’s injury “wasn’t as serious as it looked” the Westport player was likely to be out “for three to four weeks”. Instead, it seems to have been three to four days.
Other players name-checked by James last week and who don’t feature in the panel for Saturday are James Carr, Mark Moran and David McBrien. Jack Carney has, though, been named to start, while Enda Hession and Kevin McLoughlin are both on the bench.
The next question – a constant one for every inter-county Gaelic football teamsheet nowadays – is whether or not the named team will start. While I’d say it’s possible that we’ll make one or two changes from the team announced today, we could well go with the named team. There – for the second time this week I’ve shared with the world the fruits of my well-honed prediction skills.
Despite the much-changed nature of the team for Saturday night, the starting fifteen includes just one full debutant. That’s Paul Towey, who has made seven appearances off the bench for the county and, if I’m not mistaken, who has been named in teams before but has never actually started a competitive fixture for Mayo. He was in lively form for UL in the Sigerson last night and he’s well due a starting slot now. Good luck to him.
Rory Brickenden had two League starts last year (against Down and Clare), while Jack Carney had one (against Meath). Donnacha McHugh started against Donegal and was brought on against Monaghan the last day. Of the subs list, only Sam Callinan (who came on in Round 1 this year against Donegal) has yet to make his full debut for the county.
The best of luck to the lot of them on Saturday night at HQ.