Four Mayo players to debut in NY

KEVIN'S HEAVEN: Knockmore's McLoughlin, together with Ger Cafferkey, is part of a full-back line that has two debutants.

KEVIN'S HEAVEN: Knockmore's McLoughlin, together with Ger Cafferkey, is part of a full-back line that has two debutants.

IN AT NUMBER 3: Ballina Ger Cafferkey's get his championship debut and the chance to pin down the number 3 jersey.
IN AT NUMBER 3: Ballina Ger Cafferkey’s get his championship debut and the chance to pin down the number 3 jersey.
DONAL'S DAY: Donal Vaughan is the surprise inclusion of the four debutants but has shown serious potential at wing-back.

DONAL'S DAY: Donal Vaughan is the surprise inclusion of the four debutants but has shown serious potential at wing-back.

FROM A BOY TO A MAN: Aidan O'Shea will go from playing in last year's All-Ireland minor final in this picture last September to making his senior championship debut on Sunday next.

FROM A BOY TO A MAN: Aidan O'Shea will go from playing in last year's All-Ireland minor final in this picture last September to making his senior championship debut on Sunday next.

 

 

AS you can imagine from the pictures above our focus is going to be on the four young men making their championship debuts on Sunday (my IT weaknesses to the fore, I had hoped to place the pics in a neat square but alas . . ).

There’s probably no better way to ease lads into their first championship experience than a trip to take on New York .

Ger Cafferkey at full-back, Kevin McLoughlin at left-full back, Donal Vaughan at left-half back and Aidan O’Shea at full-forward all get to start (and some more may come on from the bench).

For Cafferkey and O’Shea it is a shot at two central positions that Mayo have struggled in badly over the last few years and they’re two players I’ve great confidence in.

Not since Kevin Cahill retired have we had a confident full-back. David Heaney did his best to fight fires there but he was trying to plug a gap and ended up being left there somewhat cruelly. Kieran Conroy and James Kilcullen wre both experiments that didn’t work out.

But Cafferkey has had the look of a classy full-back since his minor days in 2005. He won an All-Ireland Under 21 medal the following year and his performances at full-back for the 21s in 2008 seemed set to see him get his chance at senior level.

But he has had to wait until this year. Given the chance during the NFL he has taken it with both hands, with solid displays and will have learned much from marking the likes of Michael Meehan and Sean Cavanagh – none of whom overwhelmed him.

Sunday won’t be the day we find out if he has a long career at number 3 ahead of him but it will be a step in the right direction – his first championship appearance. It may be only New York but the security of tenure that John O’Mahony has afforded him this year will do wonders for his confidence. And that is a huge facet of someone’s development.

To his left is someone we expect to wear the Mayo jersey for many’s the year. While players like Aidan O’Shea and Tom Parsons may have been the star names for the Under 21s this year, those present at the games will find it hard to argue that McLoughlin was not the class performer for Messrs Holmes and Connelly.

The Knockmore man’s reading of the game is fantastic, he has great ball skills, is a good tackler and is pacey. While we’ve had a problem at full-back for some years, it goes back even longer with corner-backs. The two slots haven’t been huge problems – we’ve had decent players there while full-back was a more obvious issues – but we’re going back to Kenneth Mortimer in 1996 and 1997 until we had a top class corner-back.

That’s with the greatest of respect to the likes of Aidan Higgins, Dermot Geraghty, the legendary Gary Ruane and even Keith Higgins (not a top class corner man in my opinion, but a guy who could be that player on the wing). We hope we’re not putting too much pressure on McLoughlin but I think he has the capacity to be the next Kenny Mort’.

Donal Vaughan, while not coming from nowhere, has been the surprise selection of the four debutants. He got game time at the start of the NFL – mainly in the corner. We flagged wing-back as his best position then and he showed as much in the Under 21 competition. He is a player with a great attitude and could well be in the shake-up for the number 7 jersey for the season. However we get the feeling that the returning Keith Higgins and David Heaney could be players who might make Vaughan’s stay a short one. But possession is nine tenths of the law and if Vaughan keeps playing well . . .

And then there’s Aidan O’Shea. I remember after his outstanding performance in the All-Ireland Minor drawn final last September a well known poster on gaaboard.com called Barney, not one given to hyberbole, describing O’Shea as ‘the past, the present and the future of Mayo football’.

Its an opinion many people are sharing after his exploits against Galway and Tyrone at the end of the NFL – scoring 1-1 in each game. We do have to warn against expectation though. O’Shea is still eighteen and the Leaving Cert. is on the horizon too.

We’ve said before that John O’Mahony should have taken the step of leaving him at home but there’s no point going over that again. I guess it is a good way for the Breaffy wunderkid to start championship – no pressure. How he operates in a full-forward line with Barry Moran and Andy Moran remains to be seen. But we like the cut of that inside line.

Those Mayo’s travelling to New York will get to see first hand these four bright hopes making their championship debut. Maybe sometime soon those supporters will be in Croke Park in Sunday as some or all of the quartet help Mayo to the promised land. They’ll be able to recall wistfully how they saw them take their first championship steps in Gaelic Park, New York, May 10, 2009. We can but hope.

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