Three debutants in team to face Leitrim

We’ve named the team to face Leitrim in Sunday’s Connacht championship semi-final at McHale Park (throw-in 3.30pm) and it’s one that contains three championship debutants. Kevin Keane and Lee Keegan (the latter featured – and scored – in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final but did so from the bench) are given their first championship starts in the backs while Danny Geraghty is somewhat surprisingly named to line out at midfield in a team that features three changes from the one that started against Cork in the league final back in April. Sunday’s team also contains just eight survivors from the side that took the field in our last championship outing, the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry last August. The starting fifteen are as follows:

Mayo (Connacht SFC semi-final v Leitrim 24/6/2012): David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites); Kevin Keane (Westport), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis); Lee Keegan (Westport), Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Colm Boyle (Davitts); Barry Moran (Castlebar Mitchels), Danny Geraghty (Ballintubber); Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber), Alan Dillon (Ballintubber); Alan Freeman (Aghamore), Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen), Jason Doherty (Burrishoole). 

The changes made from the league final team see Danny Geraghty coming in for Jason Gibbons at midfield (more on that in a bit), with Alan Freeman and Jason Doherty deposing Conor Mortimer and Michael Conroy respectively in the corner-forward slots. In addition, Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran swap jerseys, with the captain taking up his place at 14 and the Ballintubber man shifting out to 11.

Compared to last August’s team there are far more changes, but some of these – notably the O’Shea brothers – are injury-related. Out from that team go Robert Hennelly, Tom Cunniffe, Richie Feeney, Trevor Mortimer, the two O’Sheas and Enda Varley while in come David Clarke, Kevin Keane, Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Barry Moran, Danny Geraghty and Jason Doherty.

I think the main talking point from this selection has to be the midfield. Barry Moran has been doing well in training and in challenge matches in recent weeks and while he’d never be first pick if we were starting with a full deck in this sector, his selection isn’t a surprise. The same can’t be said of the decision to start Danny Geraghty ahead of his Ballintubber clubmate Jason Gibbons.

I know Jason didn’t have a good league final (he was replaced by Pat Harte that day) but he wasn’t the only one and his league performances after he finally managed to break into the team – in particular his strong showing in the semi-final win over Kerry – seemed to suggest he’d be higher up the pecking order. Danny is, to be fair to him, a real battler and he performed well in midfield against the Dubs back at the end of March so I’m sure we can expect him to get properly stuck in when he makes his first championship start on Sunday.

The backs obviously picked themselves (which, after all the travails we’ve had in the backs over the last half-decade or so, is surely a positive sign) and Colm Boyle’s appearance at 7 sees him back in championship action for the first time since his miscast sojourn at corner-back in the 2008 campaign. I have a feeling that the world is going to see a very different Colm Boyle in this year’s championship.

In the forwards, James is once again persisting with Cillian O’Connor at centre-forward, despite the fact that this experiment – which he’s tried a number of times now – transparently isn’t one that’s working. I’m glad, though, to see both Alan Freeman and Jason Doherty back in the side and if I were Paddy Power I’d be tightening the odds on our banging in a few goals the next day with those two gents lurking close to the opposition’s square. Neither of them have provided much evidence as yet that they have what it takes to translate last year’s rich league form into the pressure-cooker that is the championship and while a goal feast on Sunday won’t alter that situation all that much, it would be a promising start nonetheless.

The names of those who are on the bench for Sunday haven’t been released yet but you’d have to think that we have plenty of options there too if needed.  The likes of Michael Conroy, Conor Mortimer and Enda Varley could all add spice to the attack if called upon to do so and Jason Gibbons would obviously need little motivation to make his mark if introduced at midfield. Other possible strong performers off the bench are likely to include Shane McHale, Richie Feeney, Seamus O’Shea, Ronan McGarrity and Pat Harte, though I guess we’ll have to wait ’till we get Sunday’s programme to see the list in full.


44 thoughts on “Three debutants in team to face Leitrim

  1. Strong team. Backs pick themselves. Midfield still not settled. Will both lads finish the match tho?
    Forwards also very strong. Glad to see Andy at 14. Now leave him there. we need a target man and that line needs to settle.
    Hope Jason and Alan do well there and do serious damage.
    Bar the two O Sheas and a fit Ronan in midfield thats a very good team.

  2. Surprised that Pat Harte is not making first 15, But its good to see so much competion also slightly surprised not to see Conner Mortimor making the cut, I know he has his critics but he has been a very good performer down the years in Connaught. In my opinion he only half performed in the league final but that was 50% better than the rest of the full foward line on that occasion, including replacments. Still good fowards need confidance and this is a great chance for Freenan & Dorerthy to get their championship off to a good start & hopefully a goal scoring one. We should have enough in hand over Leitrim (and I dont mean to be disrepctable to them) for James Horan to be able to try out an alternative combination long before the final whistle. Fingers crossed we dont pick up any injurys. C’On Mayo

  3. Forward line is interesting. I wonder will they line out like that? They are probably the best 6 at the moment, but for me, 4 of them are in the wrong positions! Midfield is another talking point – I wonder is replacing Gibbons with Geraghty based on distribution and ball winning rather than fielding? Could be a decent call.

  4. Are you sure Conor Mort is not carrying some sort of knock. Aul fella told me, he seen some sort of strappin on him at the game in Ballagh v Westmeath

  5. I imagine James is playing the long game here and trying out Doc and freeman for size to give him options later on, also tinkering with the forwards. I like his confidence this team is not our strongest but they will be under serious pressure from the throw in and not only from Leitrim I expect them to have a real close call one or two points to spare and that will do just fine….going forward as they say.

  6. Happy enough with the team in general.. all I ask that we cut out basic mistakes and try and convert the numerous chances we generate in most matches.. stop running into cul-de-sac’s and stop dropping the ball short into the keepers hand. Most teams that are serious about the championship will clock up scores of around 1-15 or more at this stage of the proceedings … so thats what i expect ..

  7. Just after seeing on JJ Costelloes Facebook that Michael J Gannon passed away in the US. Mick Gannon was on the Mayo Minor team that won the 1971 All Ireland final. He also played on the 1973 U21 team defeated by Kerry in that years final. Kerry had a few boys on the team who were to pick up senior medal;s later. P O Mahoney, J Deenihan, G O Keeffe, G Power, J Long, P Lynch, P O Se, M O Sullivan, J Egan, M Sheehy, and Martin Ferris (TD)

    I assume he was U21 the following year when Mayo won the All ireland U21 but he may have had a broken leg. He was a great footballer, a goal merchant and I had the privilege of meeting him four days after they won the 1971 Minor final. A more down to earth lad I never met. A dheis De ar a ainm dilís.

  8. This team should be more than strong enough to beat Leitrim but I worry about other games (assuming we win on Sun). One of the key problems last year was the lack of pace in the forwards. That FF line has OK size but not much pace. Neither has the HF line or Midfield for that matter. Modern gaelic football seems to put a huge premium on pace and speed and it does seem to be a gap between Mayo and Cork/Dub/Kerry at the moment.

  9. Back line is settled too many chances to the rest of the team for my liking. 4 of the selected forwards Dillion,freeman,Doherty,Moran all started v London last year only Moran performed well & O’Connor,McLoughlin came off the bench to save us from embarrassment.

    Personally i would have started Michael Conroy,Conor Mortimer and Enda Varley

  10. Good team on paper,Cillian at on 11, I am not sure he is fast enough for this position, however i hope I am wrong.
    Lets hope Alan Freeman and Jason Doherty settle in and get some goals.
    Danny Geraghty was very impressive against the Dubs in the League and if he was impressive in that company he should impress anywhere.Good that youth is given a chance.
    With the two O’Shea’s, waiting , we should get stronger as we go on.( hopefully)

  11. I was really looking forward to Sunday until I seen the team that is named to start. My fear is we beat Leitrim comfortably and James will be unable to make changes going to Hyde Park. I cannot see why Danny Geraghty is starting. A lad who is only young i know but is in no way a senior intercounty player, he was so out of his depth its not even funny in the NFL. Kevin Keane while a good prospect is too slow to play at corner back. The Cillian O’Connor at centre forward experiment failed during the league. I’m a big admirer of Alan Freeman but i think his best position is at half forward. To drop Michael Conroy and Conor Mortimer is very harsh. My fear is this team will be changed when it’s too late.

  12. Kevin Keane was probably our tightest marker in the league in a full back line that performed well. He was even a closer marker than Keith Higgins who is the fastest on the team. I don’t think pace is an issue for him.

    Danny Geraghty had a horror match in the NFL against was it Cork? in McHale Park but played well against Dublin and down in Tralee against Kerry. It’s a bit early to be writing him off I think.

    Just because O’Connor is down on paper at 11 doesn’t mean he will play at 11. If he does, I don’t think he should because I agree that centre forward hasn’t suited him at intercounty level, including U21.

  13. Digits, I cant agree on some points. I was at every game in the NFL(doesn’t make me any kind of expert,I know) and the only game Kevin Keane looked ok in was the match we hammered Dublin in which there was no pressure on him. He was very poor both days in Croke Park. Pace is nearly a must for a corner back, Kevin is left chasing shadows most of the time,his best position is full back. I think your been unfair on Keith who hadn’t the best of leagues by his very high standards but he always gets the toughest opponent in the oppositions full forward line to mark.
    Danny Geraghty on the other hand seems unable to even give a straight fist pass at times,for a man of his size he spends so much time on the ground. He’s a very poor reader of the game and lacks an engine wile Pat Harte is the opposite of all those things. Danny might be one for the future but he’s not ready yet.
    I agree re Cillian.

  14. Digits, I can’t agree on some points. I was at every game in the NFL(doesn’t make me any kind of expert,I know) and the only game Kevin Keane looked ok in was the match we hammered Dublin in which there was no pressure on him. He was very poor both days in Croke Park. Pace is nearly a must for a corner back, Kevin is left chasing shadows most of the time,his best position is full back. I think your been unfair on Keith who hadn’t the best of leagues by his very high standards but he always gets the toughest opponent in the oppositions full forward line to mark.
    Danny Geraghty on the other hand seems unable to even give a straight fist pass at times,for a man of his size he spends so much time on the ground. He’s a very poor reader of the game and lacks an engine wile Pat Harte is the opposite of all those things. Danny might be one for the future but he’s not ready yet.
    I agree re Cillian.

  15. William Joseph, it is certain that doctors differ and patients die and also that debating differences is what this site is all about, but I am firmly in the ‘Keane is a great find for the corner’ camp. He has a good defensive brain and gets close to his man (in marked contrast with Higgins). We haven’t had a genuine ‘defender’ as corner back for years and it is refreshing to see one emerge. I think that Shane McHale is another who will soon be on this team with Keith moved out to the half-back line where he belongs. By the way, I am not from Westport or have any vested interest in putting forward these views before anyone asks.

  16. William Joseph – you haven’t, I think, posted a comment before today so it’s only fair to let you know what’s expected of those who comment here. There are a few simple rules – details here – and I’d appreciate it if you could have a read of them. The issue I have with your initial comment was where, in relation to Danny Geraghty, you stated that he “is in no way a senior intercounty player, he was so out of his depth its not even funny in the NFL”. As you’ll see from the house rules, critiquing specific aspects of a player’s performance (which, to be fair, you’ve done in relation to Kevin Keane and your follow-up comments on Danny) is fine but generalised, non-specific thrash-talking of individual players isn’t. That comment above about Danny falls on the wrong side of the line so please bear in mind for future reference.

  17. Ofcourse Richard everyone has a opinion, digits is more than entitled to his and i was never suggesting any different. Again very harsh on Keith, one of the best defenders in the country, Keith has so rarely had a bad performance for Mayo. the only man in the country that could stop Michael Meehan at one stage. There really isn’t much of a basis to suggest Kevin Keane is a tight marker, the man got completely over run against Kerry and Cork. He’s big and strong, granted, but is that alone enough at the highest level anymore?

  18. Apologies Wj, your blog and only right your way, I have followed your blog every week for the past about 4-5 years. from listening to podcasts and so on. Look i’ll refrain from commenting anymore. Was never my intention to slander any player. Just feel his is not good enough.

  19. No need to do that William Joseph – all I’m asking is that everyone abides by a few simple, basic rules when commenting and that the site isn’t used to make unfair comments about individual players. Apart from that, I’m all for free-flowing debate.

  20. Team pretty much as expected, midfield was the only sector where there was genuine uncertainty.
    Good to see Freeman and Doherty in the team. I know they stalled badly in the Championship last year after good leagues, but the potential is definitely there. No disrespect to Leitrim, but they both really need to show good scoring form in this match. I’d say Horan has looked on this match as the time when they could deliver.

    Surprised at the criticism of Keane though, he impressed in the league. He hasn’t great pace, but it’s not often an issue for him because he’s such a tight marker.
    Looking forward to Sunday now, it’s been hell trying to get into the Championship while we’ve been sitting on our arses.

  21. William Joseph, do continue posting, sure isn’t this kinda debate half the craic! Re Kevin Keane against Kerry and Cork, after checking the records, he kept Patrick Curtin scoreless and Donnacha O’Connor only scored 1 point from play. For someone who hasn’t even made his intercounty debut, and is only 21, he hasn’t done too bad. Also should point out I’m also not from anywhere near Westport either :p

  22. I’m happy with the team, there are a few big calls ie Geraghty, Doherty Freeman no Conor etc. Anyone who expects Horan to shuffle players positions around are mistaken, that’s not his style. They will start where there named. Remember it’s around 6 weeks since we played a competitive game. Horan is with these lads and maybe he’s picking the team on what he see on merit.
    This is the way we have to go in Mayo as lads living of reputations is a waste of time. The guys getting criticised above are 20 or 21 yeEs old so fella are unfair to single them out.

  23. Ah well here we are again and i feel james horan still does,t know his best team afta 2 yrs, seems like he is still trying out fella,s in diff. positions an hopeing for the best, it will do against leitrim but i,m afraid whats down the road. I cannot see what geraghty brings to midfield for the life me and as for dillon, well all i say he,s been a great servant but has,t got it anymore. We cannot judge any the players next sunday with respect to leitrim as mayo shoud win by 10 pts or more.

  24. 15 on the pitch are best available very doubtful if they will line out as selected. think geraghty will go wing back, with vaughan mid field and keith centre back and boyle in corner. cillain and andy will switch continually. hope freeman takes his chance and is left inside bith he and doherty at this stage could play themselves out of the team such is the pressure from the parnells club man. on sunday this game will get 3-4 mins max from TSG lets keep under the radar

  25. The day will be bad which will probably suit Leitrim that bit better, but if Cillian and Alan Dillon on the frees have a good day then I’d expect us to get out of the Hyde with a 3 to 4 point win. I’d say Leitrim will be sticky enough and the mejia will make a big song and dance about that. However history shows that over the last 6 or 7 years, bar the odd blowout (usually with the Rossies on the wrong side of them funnily enough), most Connacht championship matches are tight enough affairs. Division 1 v Division 4 means feck all, at least for the first 35 or so.

  26. I’d be careful about saying that we should be beating Leitrim by 10 points or more johno,mo, I’ve no doubt Leitrim will be dying for a crack at a rusty Mayo coming in as mad underdogs. Given that the last time we made Croke Park in September we were lucky to come out of Carrick with a 1 point win, I expect a similar enough battle again though am confident we will pull out a win.

    With regards to the team, on the face of it it’s surprising that Conor isn’t in the corner or that Geraghty is in midfield, but I suppose Horan has to go with what he is seeing on the training field as its been so long since our last competitive game and form of some players may have swung around since then.

  27. Johno – Dillon “hasn’t got it anymore”, please explain?? What exactly does this lad have to do to get the credit he deserves.
    One of our most consistent performers over the last 5 or 6 years and was one of our best players throughout the league. I’m not sure what else he can do to appease some people.

  28. Best of luck to mayo on Sunday, they should have too much for Leitrim. We should leave the criticizing til Sunday after the game if mayo lose. I am certain that Horan and co put out what they feel is the best team.

  29. Good team…all lads no doubt are there on form. Let’s hope for a good solid display sunday. Up Mayo

  30. Agree Dan. I feel Dillion is unfairlt criticised a lot of the team.
    The guy has great anticipation and hands and gets on a tonne of ball.
    He is expected to great with every possession.
    Watch how much ball he will get on this Sunday.

  31. Just seen the team selection for Sunday, I think selection of players are O.K for Leitrim game, positions I’m worried about. I have been to all Mayo matches this year inc the challange matches against Donegal,Westmeath, Monaghan. From what I seen against Monaghan, James has picked this team for Sunday. It took a last kick of the ball to score a penalty to draw the match against Monaghan. I am still no happy with Cilian centre half fordward. We still need somebody that has pace for midfield. I know Jason Gibbons has pace and can distribute a ball, he got a hurt against Monaghan and he also may be carrying a injury that has not fully cleared up. I thought he was unlucky to be taken off against Cork. Going fordward I think Aiden O Shea and Jason Gibbons would be my partnership. They have strength and speed and both are great readers of the game. Dont think for one minute we will stroll with ease against Leitrim.
    We could not put away Donegal in recent challange and could only draw against Momaghan so I wont get carried away with the usual hype we seem to dwell in.
    Best of luck to all concerned on Sunday.

  32. “We should leave the criticizing til Sunday after the game if mayo lose”

    criticizing? the place would be in meltdown if we lost to leitrim.

  33. I agree with glasshalfull – the best 15 are on the pitch but I believe for once they may well start off as selected. Freeman and Doherty badly need to put down a marker in this game to show they are worthy of championship selection – – would like to see the forwards making their presence felt and putting in the physical tackles to stop the Leitrim backs coming up the pitch. The bench looks very strong so there are plenty of options. Geraghty has the footballing pedigree, is improving all the time – – I would expect a big shift from him. By the way, Willie Joe is this William Joseph from the generation before you or behind you or would he be a cousin once removed? ! ! We are getting a little confused here — – – thought we were seeing double.

  34. Dan- yes he has been but i thought he was average enough n lot of the league games for him being one of tha senior players in the team, this game sunday will tell us nothing about the team picked and i doubt the conn. final will either for what lies ahead afta that in croker, surely by now james horan should have a setteled team for the championship.Wats the bet on same team start,n in conn. final if we win sunday….[i,m sure we will handy.] not go,n to comment on any more players till croke park, that will separate tha men from tha boys… good luck to all tha lads n management on sunday..UP MAYO…

  35. Agree that Dillon has been probably Mayo’s most consistent performer over the past 5 or 6 years but there are some games that he tends to go hiding a bit. When we were knocked out by Meath in ’09 Dillon had a shocker and yet stayed on the field for 70 minutes. I suppose my point is, when he’s playing poorly we have nobody who has his work rate and range of passing to come in and replace him.

    Anyway, it’s good to be at the championship stage of the year (at last)!

    And Willie Joe, the site changes are a bit of a disaster. Have ya done any browser testing? I can do it for free for ya? The old site was far more user friendly (And the white background was more ‘work’ frindly 😉 )

  36. was i hearing things when pat spillane said kildare are among the top four in the country where does he pull them stats from on form over the last 12 mnths mayo are streets ahead of kildare but then again i should know better its the sunday game in all its glory lets hope we can sneak in under the radar and shut them up big style

  37. You weren’t hearing things, Peter, I heard that one too. In fairness to Spillane, he was only repeating what many others have expressed as gospel too in recent weeks. Their Leinster semi against Meath on Sunday week will, however, tell us a bit about their standing in the scheme of things.

    Thanks for that forthright feedback, Bod! Yes, there was plenty of browser testing done but let me know if there are any particular issues you think need to be sorted and these can be checked out. You can email me these at if you want.

  38. thats a bit harsh from spillane on his native county as he must be relegating them to below cork , tyrone , the dubs and kildare…

  39. I’m open to correction here but I think that the team named may be the first championship team since sometime in the ’90’s to not have a Mortimer named as starting.

  40. The team that started in London last year didn’t have a Mort on it either, Bringbackmc, but Trevor did of course come on as a sub that day.

  41. regarding team selection i would like to offer the following two pence worth..

    The backs for the most part picked themselves. I wouild have reservations regarding the the experience in the back 6 and would have serious concerns regarding the individual quality of young Keane in the corner and o boyle on the half back line. I ve watched alot of these lads playing and expect that they will find the going though when we get out of connaught.

    Mid field is still a serious problem even if the current selection wasnt forced on us through injuries..

    Forward line also mostly picked itself i feel but i have some serious reservations regarding the selection of Alan freeman and Young doc. Freeman has talent but has underperformed big time now ever since the end of his first year playing senior inter county. Maybe james feels playing him in some relatively (expected) easy games in connaught will get his confidence back up… Also jason doherty i would have serious concerns about. I cant under stand how he has played himself into a starting position based on his form all through last years championship and all through this years league. Im leaving out the challenge matchs played recently becasuse they are insignificant contests in my view..
    I hope james is playing these guys now to see if he can get them back to the top of ther game (especially freeman), but if he feels this 15 is the best he has available to him now then im afraid we ll be in for a quarter final exit at the very most and maybe even before that..
    Anyway lets hope we win tomorrow with a struggle…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *