The team to play Galway in our opening NFL match of 2010 has just been announced and here it is:
David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites); Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Peadar Gardiner (Crossmolina), Trevor Howley (Knockmore), Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore); Tom Parsons (Charlestown Sarsfields), Ronan McGarrity (Ballina Stephenites); Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen), Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy), Trevor Mortimer (Shrule-Glencorrib); Enda Varley (Garrymore), Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), Mark Ronaldson (Shrule-Glencorrib).
Comparing this starting fifteen to our last proper competitive match – against Meath last August – there are five changes in personnel and a few positional switches. Gone from that All-Ireland quarter-final defeat are Kenneth O’Malley, the now retired David Heaney, the unavailable duo of Pat Harte and Alan Dillon and the injured Aidan Kilcoyne. This means that the only change of the non-enforced variety is the return of David Clarke in place of Kenneth O’Malley between the sticks, a development which can hardly be classified as earth shattering. (Clarkie should, of course, have been playing in Croke Park six months ago but that’s another story entirely).
It also means that the full-back line which enjoyed a less than happy day against Meath at HQ has been retained in its entirety, despite last weekend’s shifting of Keith to the half-back line and the inclusion of Alan Feeney in the side at full-back for two of the three FBD matches. It’ll be interesting to see how this line fares against the likes of Nicky Joyce, Mike Meehan and Sean Armstrong the next day.
There’s one change in the half-backs with Knockmore’s Kevin McLoughlin making a welcome return at left-half. This will be his first start since the New York match last May and hopefully he’ll now get the chance to show that he’s deserving of a starting place on a regular basis.
In what must rank as a bit of a surprise, Tom and Ronan get the nod (again) at midfield. Seamus O’Shea’s inclusion in the side on the forty is the rather obvious reason why the Breaffy man hasn’t been given one of the midfield berths but this looks to be an extremely odd pick. He’s never played there for us before and he appears far more suited to a role in the engine room, with Tom (or somebody else – Andy perhaps?) at 11. Maybe they’ll switch on the day. Maybe they won’t.
Andy and Trevor retain the positions they held in the three FBD games, as do Mark Ronaldson and Aidan O’Shea in the full-forward line. Enda Varley’s meteoric rise in the pecking order sees him handed the jersey that Conor would have called his own for a number of years. When did a Garrymore man last start a league or championship game for us, by the way? Quite a while ago, I think, and here’s hoping that Enda grabs his chance with both hands (and feet) on Sunday.
That’s the team, then – a fifteen picked with, I’d say, the specific challenge we expect Galway to provide on Sunday in mind rather than one constituting the first move in some ultra-cunning master plan for 2010. But, of course, we don’t really do those kind of dreams under Johnno II anymore, do we?