Are Parsons and Conor Mort’ under pressure?

AT this stage it is still very, very difficult to say with any certainty what the Mayo starting fifteen will be on Saturday evening. The team is due to be picked either tomorrow or Thursday but there’s no certainty that that team will be the fifteen that line out on Saturday either.

POINTING THE FINGER: Could Conor Mortimer be pointing the finger at John O'Mahony over his non-selection for Saturday's game?

POINTING THE FINGER: Could Conor Mortimer be pointing the finger at John O'Mahony over his non-selection for Saturday's game?

Some people might say the fact that we can’t pick the team ourselves at this stage is a good thing – that it means competition for places and a sign that everyone in the panel is in with a shout and no one can rest on their laurels.

That is true to a point but what I would be inclined to be worried about is that it is more a case of very few lads putting their hands up for inclusion than savage competition taking place. We seem to have a lot of mediocrity around us in performance terms at the moment.

All of which means that it is anyone’s guess as to who will line out in the following numbers on Saturday – 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 13 and 15. Seven positions. Surely that’s three or four too many?

Liam O’Malley’s injury, as reported here in The Mayo News, means he is a very doubtful starter and that is one nailed on position we now have to find a replacement for. Dare I mention Aidan Higgins?

So it now looks like we could have a very young full-back line with possibly Donal Vaughan and Kevin McLoughlin either side of Ger Cafferkey. That’s three men who only made their championship debuts against New York. Not ideal at all.

Which makes me think Keith Higgins could be called in from the wilderness. Higgins has been only on the fringes since he came back from Australia. Hurling commitments meant he didn’t go to New York and have limited his involvement since. But, if he is reasonably close to full-fitness, we expect him to slot in at corner-back.

Kevin McLoughlin and Donal Vaughan will likely then be in competition for the other corner. I’d sooner see Vaughan at wing-back but if it comes down to a straight call between these two for corner-back, I’d fancy Vaughan, the more in-form of the two, to get the call.

But we cannot rule out Trevor Howley being moved back into the corner either with David Heaney possibly coming into centre-half back. But we think that is unlikely. Howley will play at 6 and will probably be flanked by Peadar Gardiner (definitely) and Andy Moran (possibly).

And, of course, Kenneth O’Malley will start in goal. David Clarke is definitely out and it would be a major shock if Robert Hennelly was parachuted straight in ahead of the Ballinrobe man.

But midfield is where there is one helluva decision to be made. We believe Tom Parsons is under real pressure to start. It would be some comedown for the Charlestown man to go from playing for Ireland in the winter to not making the Mayo team eight months later.

But his form has not been exceptional by any means during the league and it has, from my information, worsensed in the training game and challenge circuit since. David Heaney reportedly played midfield for the Mayo A team on Saturday last with Parsons opposite him for the B team.

UNDER PRESSURE: Tom Parsons could well start on the bench on Saturday.

UNDER PRESSURE: Tom Parsons could well start on the bench on Saturday.

Is it the right decision? Hard to say. Parsons hasn’t been flying and there is the argument that he and McGarrity aren’t compatible. Which isn’t to say McGarrity’s position shouldn’t be above scrutiny – because he has been far from peerless this year.

Personally I think Parsons is still a bit raw. He is very one sided and can make poor use of the ball at times. We undoubtedly have a fine talent on our hands but the finished product is definitely is not.

Heaney looks like he could line out at the weekend but of course the moving of Pat Harte from wing-forward cannot be completely dismissed.

The half-forward line is probably the easiest to pick. We reckon Harte won’t be moved to midfield and will take up his  place alongside Dillon and Trevor Mortimer. The only quandary is which of the last two will play at centre-half. We hear Dillon was there during Saturday’s training game.

It may have been Trevor’s position during the league but it is certainly more suited to Dillon’s creative play rather than Trevor’s battering ram approach. We just hope the Ballintubber man can provide a consistent 70 minutes.

And then there’s the full-forward line. God only knows what three will line out. Aside from the definite starter of Aidan O’Shea, take your pick from Conor Mortimer, Barry Moran, Aidan Kilcoyne, Austie O’Malley, Billy Padden, Andy Moran and Mark Ronaldson.

We hear Kilcoyne is flying and has the upper hand on Conor Mortimer at the minute. Barry Moran has regularly been picked with O’Shea as a twin towers full-forward duo. That would seem to suggest that Moran and Kilcoyne will join O’Shea.

KILLER TO BE IN FROM THE START?: Will Aidan Kilcoyne start his second championship match for Mayo? He is pictured here during his first start, last year's qualifier clash with Tyrone.

KILLER TO BE IN FROM THE START?: Will Aidan Kilcoyne start his second championship match for Mayo? He is pictured here during his first start, last year's qualifier clash with Tyrone.

But Moran, more so than Kilcoyne, could be under pressure if Mortimer has shown enough in recent weeks to highlight his ability of recent years, and not showed more of the same from the NFL. But I think John O’Mahony will keep Conoreen on the sidelines.

So the team I expect to start is as follows: Kenneth O’Malley; Donal Vaughan, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Peadar Gardiner, Trevor Howley, Andy Moran; Ronan McGarrity, David Heaney; Pat Harte, Alan Dillon, Trevor Mortimer; Aidan O’Shea, Barry Moran, Aidan Kilcoyne.

We should know the starting fifteen by this time tomorrow. Providing, that is, that Johnno doesn’t through Roscommon a late dummy. Which, of course, he might.

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