A busy week in January

There may not have been a ball kicked in anger yet in Mayo but the great thing about this football mad county is that even the off-season can provide plenty of news and food for thought.

CAPTAIN AGAIN: Trevor Mortimer will be hoping to regain the Nestor Cup as Mayo captain for 2010.

Take this week as an example. We have the selection of Trevor Mortimer as senior captain last Sunday. The following evening the worst kept secret in the county was officialy announced when Tony Duffy was announced as Mayo Minor manager and we can look forward to the upcoming FBD and NFL campaigns at senior level and the Under 21 championship in late February.

And then plenty of club managements are being put in place on a weekly basis. Truly, there is never a dull moment.

We’ll deal with each event chronologically. Trevor Mortimer was announced as Mayo captain for the second year by John O’Mahony on Mid West Radio on Sunday with Peadar Gardiner as his deputy once more.

We’ve great time for both players but I’m not certain about how well suited to leadership roles they are. This raises two questions for me. Firstly is John O’Mahony willing to mix things up this year and challenge players insead of maintaining the status quo? These selections would indicate no.

But then there’s some defence for O’Mahony in the next question – have we good enough leaders to take over? That’s a worrying one. Being honest only Alan Dillon and Andy Moran spring to mind.

Think of the other players 25 or older. David Heaney? Will he even be back? Conor Mortimer, Ronan McGarrity and Pat Harte? Can they be sure of their place? Ditto David Clarke. Keith Higgins is sure of his place but has he leadership qualities? These are worrying questions.

Personally if I was to pick leaders on the Mayo team from 2009 only four spring to mind: Trevor Mortimer, Trevor Howley, Alan Dillon and Andy Moran. Aidan O’Shea may join them.

Look at the Kerry team that started the 2009 All-Ireland final and straightaway I could name Diarmuid Murphy, Marc O Se, Tom O’Sullivan, Tomas O Se, Tommy Griffin, Darragh O Se, Declan O’Sullivan, Tadhg Kennelly and Paul Galvin as serious leaders. And the irony isn’t lost that none of them was captain, Darran O’Sullivan was. But sin sceal eile. It does highlight a serious weakness for us.

It makes me think 2010 is going to be another year of transition.

On a more upbeat note our underage record has been very good in recent years. Two All-Ireland minor finals in a row means we have the makings of a serious Under 21 team this year and next year while this year’s minors could be interesting too.

The Under 18s of 2010 will run out under the command of Ballintubber’s Tony Duffy who, with Foxford’s Michael Ruane (brother of Gary), Belmullet’s Liam Lavelle and Claremorris’ Vinny Walsh as selectors, will carry four of the starters from last year’s All-Ireland finalists.

And they are four serious players. Midfielder Danny Kirby, star forward Cillian O’Connor, hardworking wing-forward Fergal Durkan and skilful centre-half forward Darren Coen should form the basis of a very good team.

In fact we think O’Connor and Kirby are so good that they would be good enough for this year’s Under 21s. But Raymond Dempsey will rightly decide, we think, that they have enough to be worrying about with colleges and minor football.

Dempsey is helped by the strength of his own playing personnel. The Under 21 grade can be hit and miss and it is easy to come unstuck in the grade which is knockout competition in early spring. But, on the dreaded paper, Mayo look serious.

We have the pick of the last two years All-Ireland minor finalists and, lest we forget, the 2007 minors were a serious side who came unstuck in their first outing against Roscommon and while we didn’t see that side come close to realising their potential, we will that group seriously augment the two finalists.

We’re talking serious players here like senior player Kevin McLoughlin and key players from last year like Lee Keegan, Neil Douglas and Jason Doherty. Add in Ballintubber midfielder Jason Gibbons and Aghamore scoring forward Alan Freeman.

The 2008 minors will bring players like Robert Hennelly, Kevin Keane, Shane McHale, Eoghan O’Reilly, Shane Nally, Ger McDonagh, James Cafferty, Cathal Freeman and Aidan O’Shea. Add in players from last year like Micheal Schlingermann,  Keith Rogers, Michael Walsh and Shane McDermott and we have a serious looking side.

But that’s for down the road. We’ll look in close detail closer to their opener against Leitrim.

First things first is Sunday’s FBD opener, delayed from last week, against NUI Galway in Garrymore. The FBD can be only a faint indicator of where we are headed so it is individual performances rather than the collective we need to examine.

I’ll be keen to see how Castlebar Mitchels defender Alan Feeney, Garrymore attacker Jimmy Killeen, Westport defensive duo Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane and Mitchels attacker Neil Douglas find the step up.

See ye in Garrymore!

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