Earlier on today we named our team for Saturday’s Connacht Championship opener against Sligo. Here it is:
Mayo (Connacht SFC quarter-final v Sligo, 26/6/2021): Robbie Hennelly (Breaffy); Enda Hession (Garrymore), Oisín Mullin (Kilmaine), Lee Keegan (Westport); Paddy Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels), Michael Plunkett (Ballintubber), Eoghan McLaughlin (Westport); Matthew Ruane (Breaffy), Conor Loftus (Crossmolina Deel Rovers); Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Darren McHale (Knockmore), Bryan Walsh (Ballintubber); Tommy Conroy (The Neale), Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), Ryan O’Donoghue (Belmullet).
Let’s deal first off with the possibility of changes to the named fifteen ahead of throw-in. The team’s been named ahead of training tonight – assuming there is training tonight – and it’s the team that we’re obliged to submit to Croke Park. I think it’s reasonable both to assume and to expect a few changes to it ahead of Saturday and perhaps also to understand why this may be the case.
Assuming, though, that the team named does line out then it’s one that sees four changes from the side that started against Clare in Ennis the weekend before last. Out go the injured Cillian and Diarmuid O’Connor (Cillian’s Achilles tendon injury has now been confirmed to be a season-ending one), as well as Stephen Coen and Rory Brickenden.
Into the team for Saturday comes Championship debutant Darren McHale, as well as Michael Plunkett, Eoghan McLaughlin and Conor Loftus. Enda Hession, who did line out the last day, is set to be our second Championship debutant in Saturday’s game.
The most recent match we played in the Championship was, of course, last December’s All-Ireland final against Dublin. When you factor in the enforced absences of the O’Connor brothers and the retirements since then of both David Clarke and Chris Barrett, the team to play Sligo is a very similar one to last year’s final selection. In fact, the only other player who lined out then but who hasn’t been named to start on Saturday is Stephen Coen. Who, for all we know, might well line out on the day.
The other thing that we don’t perhaps note that much but which is striking is the spread of clubs represented in the team named. Ten clubs have players in Saturday’s team and only four of them – Breaffy (with three), Knockmore, Ballintubber and Westport (two apiece) have more than one.
Wherever they hail from they’re all Mayo lads and they’ll all be representing the Green and Red at Markievicz Park. The best of luck to them – with special good wishes to the two Championship debutants in the named team – on Saturday.