What we know so far for 2023

I remember Donald Rumsfeld talking once about what we know. To paraphrase, he said that there are things that we are aware we know (Known knowns), things we know we don’t know (Known unknowns) and things that we don’t know we don’t know (Unknown unknowns). I was thinking of how this might be relevant to the Mayo GAA Senior football panel as we approach the first League game on Saturday next. 

Let us start with the Known knowns

There has been three games this month that paying punters have seen, either on TV or live. I was lucky enough to be in the Dome for the middle game and I saw the other two on TV. All three had experimental line-ups but with a fair smathering of experienced players making an appearance.

There have also been a few challenge matches but the reports from these have been sparse at best. We have a good deal of certainty on who has left the panel and therefore are not available to the county. We also know that many of the experienced players are back in action.

We know that serious operators like Stephen Coen, Conor Loftus, Matthew Ruane, Jordan Flynn, the O’Connor brothers, Aidan O’Shea, Eoghan McLaughlin and Ryan O’Donoghue are all fit and ready. We are sort of assuming that Robbie Hennelly is also in this category.

Lads that have been knocking on the door of a first fifteen place for a couple of years, such as Enda Hession, Rory Brickenden, Fionn McDonagh, Bryan Walsh, Aidan Orme and James Carr are all showing well.

Jack Carney is also ready for the step up and he is also leading a group of developing players who made the breakthrough into the panel in the last year or so. This group also includes Rory Byrne, Donnacha McHugh, Sam Callinan, David McBrien.

Add to these lads like Conor McStay, Jack Coyne, Paul Towey and a great collection of new talent and we can see how getting into the first 26, rather than the first 15, is going to be quite an achievement.

We know that we have four League games in Castlebar, one in Roscommon, one in Armagh and one in Ballybofey. We know that the management want to get safe in Division One as soon as possible and would probably continue to experiment after that with upcoming talent, as we know that we have a rough route to a Connacht title this year.

The Known unknowns

While we are aware that Padraig O’Hora is injured and will be back a few games into the League, we don’t know the precise prognosis for Brendan Harrison. We have not yet seen Paddy Durcan or Tommy Conroy. We seem to be assuming that Paddy is in the frame for Saturday, but is he? We are also assuming that Tommy is not far off full steam but we don’t know for sure.

We know that Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty have both committed to giving another year to the cause, but we have no idea as to where their form is.

How is Michael Plunkett going at present? Is Darren McHale making waves? Will Stephen Coen the captain for the full year or just the pre-season?

What will Conor Loftus’ actual role be this year? A holding centre-back or a raider bursting from behind midfield? If it’s the latter, who will mind the house when he breaks forward?  In relation to squad management, we don’t know how the U20 competition will be approached this year in terms of releasing potentially senior players to that panel.

The Unknown unknowns

This is crystal ball stuff. The only things I can put into this category is how mad would the county go if we won the bloody thing and what the chances are that my liver would survive the celebrations! Consequently, I think we have enough to concern ourselves right now in considering what we do know and in hoping that unknowns will be resolved in the near future. 

On the positive side, Stephen Coen is playing some good football so far, let’s hope that trajectory keeps rising. Conor Loftus has bulked up and has serious pace. Jordan Flynn looks like he will be even better this year.

The newbies are impressive. I was particularly impressed by Colm Reape, Jack Coyne and Fenton Kelly.

Having Donie Buckley back is adding a bite to the defence. There is a bit more structure to the forwards in that we are using two fast wing half forwards to get the ball in faster. In the past, the half forward line seemed to be a place where we tried to fit in those who were not picked at midfield or in the front line. The half forward line is now shaping up in its own right. Also, the ball is being kicked more rather than hand passed – particularly the 30-yard passes. 

All in all, there seems to be a more noticeable sense of purpose, but as we set out again on the annual quest, we have no idea where it will bring us. We will know more as each week progresses. But looking at the interest in the games so far, I am hopeful that a good run early in the League could bring back the big crowds. There is nothing to beat the excitement of a good Mayo performance with a big Mayo crowd. 

And of course, there is always that great unknown – could this, finally be the year?

Only time will tell.

Keep the Faith!

47 thoughts on “What we know so far for 2023

  1. What a great piece of writing Louis! Great introduction! You lads in Aghamore are surely talented writters for sure! Great synopsis of the current Mayo GAA senior team and how it is progressing. I presume you mean Donnacha McHugh and not Walsh- his athair fhein is from Oilean Acla!
    Mr Rumsfeld was secretary of defence under Bush senior and a previous President I think?

    Mhuigeo Abu!

  2. Best player I seen last year was Jordan Flynn. Huge potential to get even better as well.

  3. Good spot Oilean Acla. It is of corse Donnacha McHugh. 3 different guys were tried on him against Galway and he gave a solid account of himself with all of them. I’ll ask the editor to correct the post.

  4. A very well versed Man here in Meath, managed winning minor and under 21 all Ireland teams reckons Brickenden lacks a bit of pace for the full back position and reckons Mayo supporters underate the value of Stephen Coen,a very smart move to have him play with all the new lads in the back line.

  5. Enjoyable piece of writing Id say in fairness one of the unknown knowns is we wont win Sam this year. Personally I would be delighted with good signs of progress, some new players developed and an ould Connaught title thrown in.. When you think of the super players we have lost, especially at the back, it will be a challenge, but I expect us to be fresh, enthusiastic and give it a right go.all the same.

  6. Brickendon definitely does not lack pace, probably beat anyone in a sprint on westport panel.
    Probably needs to learn not to over commit when closing down an opponent and that gets better with experience.
    The starting line up for Saturdays clash will be interesting. I would love to see Orme, Carr and Carney make up ff line. Conor Loftus in for acid test but he must be doing it in training.

  7. It will be interesting to see our first 15 and subs for the start of the serious stuff. I presume that Kevin will go for the tried and trusted for the most part and we probably won’t see too many of the newbies. Hopefully we will see a good performance, at least. As for Brickenden, I don’t know if he is the answer at full-back, which has been a problem position for Mayo for a long long time and I don’t know if he is slow or fast, but I wouldn’t have thought that pace was a significant requirement to play at FB and many good ones were never blessed with pace.

  8. Ontheditch I can understand wanting to see 3 exciting young players in the ff line but the chances of those 3 usurping Cillian O’connor or ROD are close to zero I reckon. The biggest things that management hasn’t been able to solve is the reliable left footed free taker and a good 45 scorer. Orme is certainly not the answer to the leftie free taker and it’s about time we moved past bringing the keeper up the pitch to kick 45s. Having said that I can’t wait to get back into McHale Park on Sat.

  9. Brickenden is a good young lad and an honest player. However I don’t know what his future is in this Mayo team.
    Don’t think he’s got enough quality on the ball to play anywhere except full back, but don’t think he’s a good marker at all.
    When you think that Moycullens Dessie Conneely was running riot against Westport in that game in MacHale park they opted to move Keegan onto him to quieten him.
    Just in general I don’t see what he has to offer. When you compare him to the likes of David McBrien he is worse in arguably every way.
    To be fair to Brickenden however he has the frame of an intercounty full back and is always available and is very rarely injured.
    Perhaps with constant intercounty reps at full back he will improve more than he ever would otherwise and he can blossom into a great player. However, I would be very worried if he does end up playing significant game time at his current level, especially as it probably means David McBriens awful injury record would be continuing.

  10. I would imagine without injury two spots in that full back line will be taken up by Hession and David McBrien. I don’t know enough about the Ballagh man, but he has been name checked quite a few times. Met him last summer, he’s a big lad. Not sure Brickendan is the answer, I watched him a fair few times during the club championship and he doesn’t seem to look comfortable in a man marking role.

    One of the big takeaways from last year was Jordan Flynn’s improvement, despite injury in the league final, a settled midfield will bring this young Mayo team further down the road. While I’m a big fan of Jack Carney, he is a runner like Mattie and we need a good kick passer in beside Mattie. Not sure the best answer to our half forward line is Diarmuid and Jack on the wings, but we might not have any better options. I don’t listen myself as I’m not tech savvy, but I was told another Mayo podcast reckons Paddy Durcan will be covering for Loftus at 6.

  11. A known unknown. There is the possibility for us to put together a middle eight and full forward line that has us right in the frame to win Sam.
    It’s not some long shot possibility either.
    1. Where are we strong traditionally and possibly this year? I would say it’s in pruducing athletic, raw boned, good in the air, tall and strong players in the middle eight of the field.
    A possible middle eight based on freeing up Conor Loftus with the 11 dropping back.
    Stephen Coen Conor Loftus Eoghan McLoughlin
    Matthew Ruane Diarmuid O’Connor
    Jack Carney Paddy Durcan Jordan Flynn.
    That group is on average 6’1″ maybe 85kg.
    That group in the heat of battle I would be confident would physically overrun an opposition middle eight that are a small % off.
    2. Full forward line.
    We have the possibility to put together an effective full forward line for 80 mins of playing time.
    Ryan O’Donoghue, Cillian O’Connor, Aidan Orme, Aidan O’Shea, Paul Towey, Tommy Conroy.
    I’m just not sure this year is an elite year?
    Have a look at Dublins age profile. They were close last year, several players are going to have physically declined in the year since. Paul Mannion I would think is not coming back anywhere near to his old form. I can’t see Jack McCaffrey or Con O’Callaghan coming back at their top level form or close to it. Can James Mccarthy keep on dominating teams physically?
    Kerry are having a bad time with injuries and could have done with David Moran off the bench last 15 mins with his quality. Stephen O’Brien, Paul Geaney and Paul Murphy are now getting on.
    Galway having a time of it with injuries and away travelling.
    I see it being much like 2021 /2022. A pretty open championship.

  12. Agree with that JP. Don’t think it’s a vintage year around the country in terms of quality. Every team has their own issues.

    Don’t understand people saying they’d be happy with us staying in division 1 and maybe winning connacht. Recent history shows how important a new manager bounce can be so this may be McStay’s best chance at challenging for Sam.

    There’s no guarantee we’ll be in a better place in 2024 or 25.

  13. @JP

    I think Aidan can still play a big role in that middle 8. Teams will try to avoid Aidan with their kick outs and that will allow the other lads to dominate aerially. Jordan caught a few marks in last year’s QF but if Aidan hadn’t been there, Jordan would likely have had to mark David Moran

    I also think that we’re missing a breaking ball specialist in there. Last year we kept having to rely on Kevin mcloughlin to cover that role. I’d like to see if Padraig O’hora could bring something in that regard

  14. That’s a good about on Padraig OHora being a possible breaking ball player. He’s like Colm Boyle, he has no brake pedal. Got that bit o crazy.

  15. “I can’t see Jack McCaffrey or Con O’Callaghan coming back at their top level form or close to it”

    With regard to O’Callaghan, seriously??? He’s 26…

    McCaffrey and Mannion (outstanding for Crokes until his injury) are hardly any old Joe Soaps returning either, they are generational players

    Sound very much like wishful thinking with regard to Dublin tbh

    Galway have only one high profile injury I know of, and there seems to be conflicting information as to whether Liam Silke is back… both are more or less offset anyway with Cooke and Ian Burke returning

  16. @Ciaran Did I mention age for Mannion, McCaffrey or Con?
    Mannion and Con have had a lot of injuries and their typical form was a very high mark to reach whilst coming off the back of injuries and in McCaffreys case a long absence.

  17. Galway over achieved last year imo

    I expect that they’ll be very much brought back down to earth this year

    I don’t gamble but at odds of 6/1 to be relegated, I’d be very tempted.

  18. I think they missed a huge opportunity in the final. I said it afterwards, it will haunt Galway. Kerry were definitely there for the taking. Fair play to Galway though for really pushing Kerry. Kerry got a lucky call that tipped the balance.

    We know too well about the small margins. I must say its interesting looking at it from the outside in, a match like that when you’re not emotionally invested, when you don’t give a fig who wins. It really does show that the result can go either way. There was nothing in it. It’s all about momentum, tiny moments.

  19. Yeah Galway were a lot closer than many seem to give them credit for in that final

    The contentious decision near the end obviously had a bearing, but even something as small as having a Cooke on the bench, or if either Comer or Finnerty took on some of the scoring slack, they probably would have won it

    Eerily similar to some of our own near misses tbh, no impact off bench, not enough spread of scorers and some bounces/decisions going against them here and there. Ian Burke and Cooke back in the mix definitely gives them an interesting added dimension this season

    I agree last season was probably a great opportunity missed, as they will do very well to usurp both of Kerry and Dublin this season, but I’m sure I said the same about the likes of Donegal in early 2012 and Cork in 2010.

    This is the first time since the 00s where they don’t appear to have players willingly dropping out of the squad, there’s definitely a feel good factor in the county around football again

  20. @Ciaran – Burke and Cooke will be interesting alright but i’m not as sure they will make as big an impact as people are anticipating, time will tell. Id be more excited about Patrick Kelly and Tomo Cullhane pushing on this year if i was a Galway Fan.

    Did young Flaherty in goal and Liam Silke not drop out of the panel this year ?

  21. On the club final controversy. Lot’s of uproar about the circumstances and rightfully so

    But I haven’t seen any mention of a suspension for the guilty player Dara Mullin. I mean if staying on the pitch after you’ve been subbed off isn’t blatantly cheating, then I don’t know what is.

  22. Great post, Louis. It gets the excitement going for the year ahead.
    I feel good that Donie Buckley is in there too – to get a bit of grit into our defence when we are missing some giants there. I thought it was a sign that the management team meant business when I saw Donie present at the FBD final.
    I also think Stephen Coen looks great this year. And it’s a nice bonus that he can score too.
    JP, your post above about the quality of our potential middle eight and FF line is convincing and very encouraging. Fingers crossed : )

  23. Conflicting information going around re Flaherty (who wasn’t involved in business end last year in any case) and Silke. Joyce confirmed Cooke’s return last week. Not sure what the story with Michael Daly is either, out a long time now, or Mulkerrin’s timeline

    Re Sunday, not sure if Mullin was even told properly he was coming off.. no way of proving it anyway. I personally don’t think there was anything knowingly sinister in it, but sure we’ll never know either way

    The GAA should be taking the bull by the horns on this, leaving it up to Glen is very bad form

    As to whether they should appeal or not, hard to fully judge it as a neutral but if my own club where involved I’d be fairly sure my own thoughts would echo those of Malachy O’Rourke in his post match interview

  24. Either way I feel sorry for everyone involved to be honest

    Its turned into a complete mess, and its now impossible to generate any sort of satisfactory resolution from here.

    An incident like this is the last thing both teams wanted but sadly that’s how life goes sometimes

  25. I have looked at the Bookmakers odd for the All Ireland this year, it’s a two horse Race with Kerry out in front.

  26. It’s all so fast from next week onwards , Only ten weeks till our showdown with Ros in the championship.

  27. I wouldn’t have Brickenden doing a man for man job on someone of the stature of Dessie Connelly but full forwards are often big hustlers.
    Cillian O Connor looked to have regained his sharpness in FBD. And where do you play Ryan O Donaghue. He’s so imaginative that you would think the 11 position would bring him more into a game. The team/panel for Saturday night will be fascinating as will Galways. I hope we name in full on Thur/fri., to borrow a quote from another sport no ‘ducking and diving’.

  28. @Mayo88 I really don’t think kerry will win back to back they are a good team no question but lost David moran &Jack savage also to travelling. I think they are getting ahead of themselves but thats only my opinion they where there for the taking against Galway in final and Dublin would have had them in semi if they had Con playing ! I think it will be the Dubs year this year….

    Be interesting to see our team for sat! Def think cillian O connor is coming back to form which I thought he would earlier on in the year Ryan O D is coming back to flying form also can’t wait to see Tommy C back as well with the younger guys& new players I am optimistic this year that will be better then last year! The last game was poor but only fbd and win is a win.

  29. Only lost to three teams in the last 2 years, and they’re all coming to Castlebar in the first 4 rounds of the league. We’ll have a fairly good idea what to expect from this year by the end of February

  30. Just looking through all these posts and the quality of discussion is superb. Great post Louis to elicit these responses. I think this is the time of year when the blog is at its best. Spring around the corner and optimism in the air. When it gets really going the headbangers will pile in and Willie Joe’s stress levels will be up to 90.

    JP great responses; I think that middle eight will be vital and those names will be close, but their shadows or replacements will be just as important, and I think this is what management are driving at in all these recent games.

  31. All the talk about dara Mullin with kilmacud makes me wonder would he be on the mayo panel if his dad had stayed in shrule. Regarding galway I can’t see them reaching the final this year. They got the easiest side of the draw and not enough players stood up last year. Semifinal needed a couple of goals from comer and very few points and in the final it was an exceptional performance from Walsh and a great performance from McDaid to get them where they got and not enough of other players stood up.

  32. I know Kevin Mcstay was quoted after the Galway FBD game as saying that Tommy was going along fine, had been taking part in practice games and that we would be seeing him soon.
    It goes without saying that if we are to get anywhere this year we will need a bit of luck with injuries. Softly softly should be our approach with Tommy. Nothing to be gained on seeing Tommy ploughing through the mud for 70 minutes in January or February.
    Cillian,Ryan and Tommy on the pitch at the same time and anywhere near full fitness would be a handful for most.

  33. I would add that the reports on Cillian from Friday is a real bit of promise.Hopefully he can have a few years injury free….his mental resolve is amazing

  34. The Connacht draw this year is indeed farcical

    It also makes one of the round robin groups a complete non-event, given 3 qualify from each group

    We could very well see at least one of teams involved playing a shadow side in the early rounds of Connacht

  35. I’m expecting us to beat Galway this weekend.
    Seem to be a bit further ahead of galway this time of year fitness wise.
    Shane walsh definitely won’t be there as he is off travelling for 6 weeks I hear (potentially missing the kilmacud Glen replay too).

    Moycullen lads not long back either and galway back line significantly weakened with silke/molloy out long-term. There’s lots of joy to be had for ROD, COC etc

  36. @Supermac – I wouldn’t be too confident of that either. We will likely have a significantly weakened back line with the loss of mullin / keegan and o`hora out.

    Galway have some very good forward`s who can cause damage, i think it will be a 2 -3 point win but at the moment im not sure which team will come out the right end of the win.

  37. I think many are underrating Galway. Cooke and McDaid in the middle is very very strong. For the first time in over a decade, I think they are ahead of Mayo, particularly with Lee and Oisin gone. I hope I’m wrong. Galway missed a golden chance last year but they’ll get back to another final in the next 2 to 3 years. I’m certain of that. Hopefully we can too, but I think Lee and Oisin are massive blows to Mayo for 2023.

    The All Ireland this year is very open but there are 3 or 4 ahead of us at the moment. You never know how injuries and form will impact on matters.

  38. @Mayonaze- i would have us on a par with Galway, they are less two of their best back’s this year (Molloy and Silke) and i don’t think Cooke and McDaid is any stronger than Flynn and Ruane.

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