Team to face Laois named

Details of the starting fifteen and subs for tomorrow night’s league opener against Laois at O’Moore Park (7pm throw-in) have just been officially announced, as follows:

Mayo (NFL Division One v Laois, 4/2/2012): David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites); Lee Keegan (Westport), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Peadar Gardiner (Crossmolina), Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Richie Feeney (Castlebar Mitchels); Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy), Pat Harte (Ballina Stephenites); Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Alan Freeman (Aghamore), Alan Dillon (Ballintubber); Conor Mortimer (Parnells, Dublin), Barry Moran (Castlebar Mitchels), Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen). Subs: Robert Hennelly (Breaffy), Kevin Keane (Westport), Danny Kirby (Castlebar Mitchels), Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber), Enda Varley (Garrymore), Eoghan Reilly (Castlebar Mitchels), Michael Conroy (Davitts), Chris Barrett (Belmullet), Jason Doherty (Burrishoole), Colm Boyle (Davitts).

If we ignore for a moment the just-concluded FBD campaign and take our last competitive outing to be the All-Ireland semi-final last year, tomorrow night’s team contains nine players who started back in August against Kerry. Missing from that one are Robbie Hennelly, Tom Cunniffe, Trevor Mortimer, Aidan O’Shea, Enda Varley and Cillian O’Connor with David Clarke, Lee Keegan, Peadar Gardiner, Pat Harte, Conor Mortimer and Barry Moran coming in. Of the six who miss out, four are on the bench tomorrow night, with the other two – Tom and Trevor – well flagged in advance as being unavailable.

As regards the line-up for tomorrow night, we’re clearly following on from the team selection in the FBD. David Clarke did nothing wrong between the sticks (though I do wish he’d do something else with his kickouts aside from rooting the ball as high as he can down the middle). With Robbie Hennelly only returning from injury it makes sense to leave the Ballinaman with the jersey.

I’m a big fan of Lee Keegan but I think he’s better suited as a wing-man. As PJ said when he saw the team sheet for the FBD final, it’s a case, once more, of half-backs playing in the corners and that’s the position again tomorrow night.

The half-back line sure is an experienced one, with Peadar Gardiner hard to avoid after his positive displays in the FBD and with Richie Feeney slotting back in on the other wing. Much as I’d like to see Colm Boyle getting some game time, it would clearly make no sense to pitch him into battle only a little more than a week before Davitts’ big day at Croke Park. It’s good to see Colm and Michael Conroy listed among the subs, though.

Midfield wasn’t our best sector in the FBD – we tried four different pairings over the four matches and none of them seemed to work all that well – and we’ve now gone for a fifth variant, with Pat Harte moving back to team up with Seamus O’Shea. I thought Barry Moran did well enough there in the Roscommon match and I’m not sure if 14 is the place for him but O’Shea and Harte have complementary styles so it might be a fruitful combination. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess.

I like the half-forward line. Kevin McLoughlin could be a real star for us this year and it’s great to see Alan Dillon back in his best position at 12. Alan Freeman had an unhappy enough summer campaign last year (after a great NFL) but he’s been firing well so far this year (in particular in the Sigerson) and he has the talent to provide the speed and directness we need at centre-forward.

Conor and Andy are sure to give their respective markers a hard enough time tomorrow night and pitching Bazza in along with them obviously allows for plenty of variation as regards what kind of ball goes in. Barry has had good and bad spells at full-forward but I guess there’s no harm in giving the experiment another go.

The bench is strong, very strong in fact, and you could see most of them challenging strongly for starting positions over the coming weeks and months. For me, the most intruiging addition to the list is Westport’s Kevin Keane: the former minor full-back seemed to slip off the radar altogether over the last while and, as far as I can tell, he has yet to feature under James Horan. This is a man who was born to play in the full-back line so maybe those half-backs playing in the corners shouldn’t be making themselves too much at home.

18 thoughts on “Team to face Laois named

  1. Agree with above, if centre field win their battle we will win. Our forward line is very strong with what seems to be a nice balance.

  2. Very strong team for a league opener. I think there is a statement of intent there and the importance of getting 2 league points in Laois can not be underestimated especially with the mouth watering clash with the Dubs up next. I would love come summer to see an explosive half back line of Higgins, Vaughan and Keegan. I know the full back line especially the corner back positions are a cause for concern however, Reilly seems to be tight and who knows maybe Kevin Keane could force his way into this line. I think a fully fit Pat Harte gives us a great option at midfield and himself and Seamus O Shea or Barry Moran could really compliment each other. The forward division is looking particularly strong and this is only a personal view but I would like to see Aidan O’ shea at 11 flanked by Kevin Mcloughlin and Alan Dillon with Freeman, Andy Moran and O’Connor in the inside forward line injuries permitting come summer time.

  3. Aidan O’Shea tweeted that he is injured…maybe he would have started otherwise? The midfield headache continues…better get it sorted before The Dubs come to town.

  4. Cillian o Connor is injured too. He has a bad foot injury. Good to see Kevin Keane among the subs. He has come back from a bad injury. I’ve seen him play well at midfield for Westport many times and he is a big strong man. I’m not sure about Barry Moran at FF. The bench is strong alright. if any player isn’t performing there is quality to bring in. I too don’t like seeing half backs playing in the corner. There is a dearth of top quality corner backs in the county. Higgins and Cunniffe play at no 6 for their clubs and keegan plays in the half back line. Reilly has been in with Mayo for a while now and hasn’t started a league game. He came on against cork last year. He plays in the corner for Mitchels and is used to it. I hope we see him starting against quality corner forwards and hopefully do well

  5. I notice you mentioned Willie joe that Tom Cunniffe is unavailable, has he been dropped or just injured? Also no place for Alan Feeney on this years Panel?? Strange that Conroy is named with Davitts having such a big game coming up, strong looking side though

  6. Strong team. Shouldn,t be as much experimenting to be done this year in the league. Nice to see Kevin Keane back in the mix, after doing his knee last year. Are there semi,s in the league this year??

  7. Tom is, I think, away (and possibly injured too – I’d heard he is but I’m not sure if this is correct) so he definitely hasn’t been dropped from the panel. I’m not sure what the story is with Alan Feeney or the others (including Jason Gibbons) who appeared in the FBD but I think that the match-day panel might change from game to game so if a certain player isn’t in the 26 listed for this weekend, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s off the panel altogether. By the way, it’s now been publicly reported (here) that Aidan Campbell has emigrated, which was a development I’d heard about a few weeks back but didn’t want to mention until it was definitively confirmed.

    Naming Colm Boyle and Michael Conroy amongst the subs won’t, for sure, do the blood pressure in Ballindine any good but I doubt if either will be risked on Saturday night.

    Didn’t know about Kevin Keane’s injury – that would explain why he wasn’t on the radar.

    There are semi-finals this year, which with an 8-team division is absolutely daft. One of the Division One managers (can’t recall which one it was) has already said that it will mean teams could go into the final match hoping to seal a play-off place and could end up finding themselves getting relegated. Also, it makes it possible to win the league playing badly enough in the ‘league’ stage (i.e. only just good enough to squeeze into a play-off place) but then upping the effort level in the play-offs. In that sense, the league will be even less of a league this year because of this change to the format.

  8. Strong team? really? I must admit that wasnt my first reaction and it still isnt. Could our midfield really be classed as strong? the last big game Seamie o shea played in he was taken off. The last big game Harte played in was against longford. If this midfield is the future, well it will be a short lived one. I really think James should have shown more imagination and blooded at least a couple of new lads. There are actually no new “caps” on that team. I know it is a great opportunity to get our league off to a winning start but what would be the harm in blooding a couple of lads and bringing in the more experienced ones if required?

  9. That should be a good enough team to win, not sure about Pat Harte in midfield though, at this level I prefer to see him in the half forward line with the ability to come back and help as a third midfielder to win dirty ball. I rate Seamus O’Shea highly though.

    The bench is almost more exciting than the team in a sense, Kirby, Reilly and Keane are three players that could have big futures for us, especially the latter two as they provide realistic options in the full back line.

    Disappointed to hear about Campbell, but with the forward options we have it’s not as big a blow as it would be for many other teams, he may have struggled to get game time to be honest. Best of luck to him wherever he is.

  10. Disappointed to hear about Campbell as he was well in the mix last year. Anyone know what has happened regarding James Kilcullen ?
    On the other hand good to see young guys like Reilly, Keane, Kirby about to get their chances.
    Onwards & upwards hopefully.

  11. not so sure tat team will start tat way .i would like barry moran at centre field at least 4 the start of the game .not 100% sure about our fullback …. maybe i am being harsh but i think he gives full fowards to much head start . also think tat shane mchale will come good in time and hope he gets league experience this year.

  12. And what about Shane McHale?? Am I the only one of ye who expected him to be listed on the bench at least, perhaps even given a chance to move a wing back out to where he belongs…wing position! Disappointed not to see Darren Coen listed. The U-21s don’t start their competition for another month at least. Not what I’d class as an overly strong team but hopefully they’ll have enough to beat Laois anyway.

  13. Delighted to see Alan Freeman at center half foreward.
    Alan was very good in his first year always taking the right option great hands and a good finisher when in position. These are all good things to have in the no. 11 position and I think he could be one of our main men this year.
    It`ll be said that he didn`t do so good last year but he broke a finger against Dublin in the league and he had a foot injury later in the summer and never got going.
    I think if he is played at 11 for a few games he`ll
    Now the thorney problem of corner backs…we still don`t seem to be able to find any.Lee Keegan is a guy I think has potential but he spent too much time in the opposition half of the pitch in the 2nd half the last night.When I see corner backs scoring points I immediatly think WHERE`S HIS MAN!
    We saw what corner forewards can do when the Gooch rattled the net just after we got the goal
    with 4 men around him.
    Corner backs shouldn`t be showing off the finer skills of gaelic football, they should be making sure that THEIR MAN is not doing so, you know stuck to him like shit to a blanket and he`ll get exactly the same medal as the guy that scores 5 or 6 points in every game.

  14. It is true, Mayomagic, that 12 of tomorrow night’s team played against Longford in 2010, though there are several positional switches for the Laois game compared to the team that started against Longford. The three starters tomorrow night who didn’t start in Pearse Park are Lee Keegan, Peadar Gardiner (who was out injured at the time) and Richie Feeney and the three who did play then but won’t be starting in O’Moore Park are Chris Barrett (who is in the subs tomorrow), Aidan O’Shea (ditto) and Trevor Howley (who is now out of the country, I think).

    Darren Coen is, I believe, injured at the moment. That was the reason he didn’t feature in the FBD final either.

    Personally, I think it’s right to go easy on those who are eligible to play U21, given that most of them will have been involved in Sigerson too. It’s as well not to be too dependent on the U21 lads as we’ll then have to do without them in March at a stage when there are both important league matches as well as the U21 championship. Remember all the whining and moaning about fixture pile-ups out of Johnno every year when March came round? You could have set your clock by him. The way James used Cillian O’Connor last year was far more intelligent and I’d like to see him use the likes of Danny Kirby and Darren Coen sparingly enough over the next while and then have them raring to go come June.

    I’ve no idea what the story is with Shane McHale but it’d be a bit of a surprise if he’s not going to feature as I think he did well enough in the FBD.

  15. a team tha shoud beat laois ,but i,d be worried wen we play tha big teams. anyway we,ll soon find out..

  16. 2.30 – about to start the trip – wet evening promised. Suit us – win by ………5 (pts)???

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