The team to face Galway in the Connacht semi-final on Sunday (throw-in 2 pm) has just been named. It shows six changes from the side that started last month against London in Ruislip and here it is:
Mayo (Connacht SFC semi-final v Galway, 26/6/2011): Robert Hennelly (Breaffy); Tom Cunniffe (Castlebar Mitchels), Alan Feeney (Castlebar Mitchels), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Richie Feeney (Castlebar Mitchels), Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Trevor Mortimer (Shrule-Glencorrib); Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy); Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Alan Dillon (Captain, Ballintubber), Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen); Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber), Alan Freeman (Aghamore), Jason Doherty (Burrishoole).
UPDATE: The subs for Sunday are as follows:
David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites), Chris Barrett (Belmullet), Lee Keegan (Westport), James Kilcullen (Ballaghaderreen), Ronan McGarrity (Ballina Stephenites), Peadar Gardiner (Crossmolina), Aidan Campbell (Swinford), Enda Varley (Garrymore), Neil Douglas (Castlebar Mitchels), Mark Ronaldson (Shrule-Glencorrib).
Those of a cynical disposition will, no doubt, point to the fact that James Horan has once again made half a dozen changes to the side he sent out in the previous match to advance their argument that we don’t currently know which way is up. They might be right, of course, but it’s not a theory I subscribe to and while like many Mayo supporters I’m nervous as hell about Sunday, I think the team selection makes plenty of sense. In fact, in the right circumstances, it might even be one to provide the kind of performance that’ll give us all a bit of a lift.
Robbie Hennelly could have lost out to David Clarke between the posts but I think he did okay in Ruislip so keeping the Breaffy man there for Sunday means that we’re not making change for change’s sake. The full-back line, augmented by the returning Keith Higgins (who surely will be on PJ duties), is as expected, with the injured Dermot Geraghty losing out here.
Half-back is a concern. Richie Feeney, lining out on his home ground in a championship match for the first time should be fine but Donal Vaughan hasn’t done anything to date to show that he can do the business at 6. It’s a brave call by JH to retain him and I’d say this could have been as much to do with the injury list as anything else. Donie really has to put in a stormer here on Sunday or we could be in bother. Trevor Mortimer returns in place of Chris Barrett at 7 and deservedly so because if it wasn’t for Trevor in Ruislip we could well be facing into Round 1 of the qualifiers on Saturday evening instead of a Connacht semi-final the following afternoon.
Midfield will be a big talking point, which sees Aidan and Seamus O’Shea starting a championship match together in the engine room for the first time. It’s a big responsibility for the Breaffy Bros but once again it’s a pick that makes perfect sense, what with James Kilcullen’s injury and Jason Gibbons’ less than convincing showing against London. Bergin and Hanley will give Aidan and Sheamie plenty to think about in the middle of the park on Sunday but the reverse is true too. This will be a tussle worth watching.
We look strong in the half-forwards, with Kevin McLoughlin rewarded for his positive performance off the bench in Ruislip. The Knockmore man unseats Aidan Campbell to join Alan and Andy in what could be our strongest line of the field.
Trevor Howley’s injury provides the necessary cover to jettison the daft and overly defensive sweeper tactic with Cillian O’Connor handed his full championship debut at 13 in what now looks like a more orthodox inside line. This trio may still be wet behind the ears as regards experience but it’s a line that’s also brimming with talent and if we get the right kind of ball into them, they could well make hay on Sunday.
Overall, I think it’s a good pick and one which, if we get going at all, could go a long way towards restoring some much-needed pride in the jersey. I know it could go the other way too but, with Sunday now approaching rapidly, I’m happy to take my place amongst the glass half-full camp and hope for the best. From this standpoint, it is, I reckon, the only productive option to take.