Around about the time a short while ago that the plane carrying James Horan and his panel of players parted company with terra firma on its way across the Atlantic, details of the starting fifteen for Sunday’s Connacht Championship quarter-final match with New York at Gaelic Park (throw-in 2.15pm local time, 7.15pm Irish time) were announced. Here’s the team we’ve named:
Mayo (Connacht SFC quarter-final v New York, 5/5/2019): Robbie Hennelly (Breaffy); Chris Barrett (Belmullet), Brendan Harrison (Aghamore), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Paddy Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels, captain), Lee Keegan (Westport), James McCormack (Claremorris); Matthew Ruane (Breaffy), Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy); Evan Regan (Ballina Stephenites), Jason Doherty (Burrishoole), Fergal Boland (Aghamore); Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Darren Coen (Hollymount/Carramore), James Carr (Ardagh).
I guess the first observation is that James has kept faith in large part with the team that started in the League final against Kerry at the end of March. There are just two changes to the starting fifteen from that day, with James McCormack starting in place of Donal Vaughan at wing-back and Evan Regan lining out instead of injured captain Diarmuid O’Connor at wing-forward. In Diarmuid’s absence, Paddy Durcan has the captain’s armband for this match.
While Mattie Ruane and James Carr both started in the League final – the latter making his senior debut that day – Sunday’s match is their senior Championship debut for both of them, as it is for James McCormack. Players such as Ger Cafferkey, Kevin McLoughlin, Donal Vaughan and Aidan O’Shea (all in 2009), as well as Conor O’Shea and Diarmuid O’Connor (in 2014) have made their Championship debuts in this fixture in previous years so the best of luck to the three lads doing so on Sunday.
It’s been over ten long months now since we last played a Championship match. With the significant passage of time and the injection of new blood into the ranks since then it’s no surprise that Sunday’s team is a much changed one from that which lined out for us against Kildare in late June last year.
In fact, just seven from Sunday’s team also started for us on that fateful evening in Newbridge. They are Chris Barrett, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan, Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea and Jason Doherty.
But that was then and now is now. Safe travels to all those heading across the Atlantic today or tomorrow for the match and best of luck to James and the team he has named for Sunday’s Championship opener.