Photo: Mayo News (Ray Ryan)
It’s been signposted for a few weeks but this morning word has at last begun to emerge about the make-up on the squad for this year’s senior football championship. As has already been signalled in the comments, Colm Keys has a piece in today’s Irish Independent (here) naming a number of players whom Stephen Rochford has released from the squad for the summer campaign.
In light of the large number of players who have been given game time so far this year, it was obvious that the squad headcount needed to be cut back ahead of the championship. The need to do this, allied to the desirability of bringing in a number of the All-Ireland winning U21s, some of whom had already played a significant part in this year’s League campaign, made it inevitable that a number of lads who’d been in the panel for some time would not be featuring this summer.
Most of the focus, understandably, will be on Michael Conroy whose senior inter-county career goes all the way back to 2004 when, still a teenager, he bagged 1-1 in that year’s All-Ireland final. On the scene from then until 2007 he was brought back into the fold by James Horan but has been dogged by repeated injuries in recent years. He featured regularly in last year’s League but then saw no championship action and was out injured for all of this year’s League campaign.
The downside of Castlebar’s long club campaign is seen in the decision to retain just Barry Moran and Paddy Durcan within the county set-up for the summer. It’s tough on players like Neil Douglas and Danny Kirby, both of whom looked like they might well break into the match-day ranks this year, but were left with little or no time to impress once the Mitchels’ run to Croke Park was over.
Looking through all of the names mentioned in that Indo piece – Mark Ronaldson, Shane McHale and Mikey Sweeney are also on the list, as well as the Mitchels’ trio Eoghan O’Reilly, Donie Newcombe and Ger McDonagh – it’s hard not to be sad for all of them. Timing can so often be crucial for players as to whether or not they blossom at inter-county level but opportunities and injuries can’t be planned for or predicted and it’s these factors that can often decide the trajectory of a player’s career.
This process can’t have been easy either on Stephen Rochford and his selectors either and undoubtedly a number of hard, close calls have had to be made in recent days. That’s part of the job of management, though, and Stephen and his colleagues are obviously the ones best placed to make these tough decisions.
Commiserations to all of the lads who came out the wrong side of this week’s squad cuts and thanks too to them for all the hard work and commitment they’ve given to the cause, in most cases over a number of years.