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FBD final looms

John O’Mahony is hardly going to be doing cartwheels with excitement from qualifying for the FBD final and you won’t find me doing them either. In fact its more of a pain in the butt than anything – we’re now going to play Galway twice in February. Familiarity breeds contempt and all of that.

IMPRESSIVE: Seamus O'Shea, seen here leaving no less men than Kerry's Tommy Walsh and David Moran on the floor, put in a decent shift at midfield.

But its no harm to have a winning habit going into the NFL. It was eventually a four point win in Ballinlough today in what was an awful game. Had the host club been of a charitable nature, they would have refunded the few hundred poor souls on the way home.

Again Mark Ronaldson top scored for us, taking 1-7 for himself, which has him on 1-20 for the three games this year. Good going in any book. The more I see of the Shrule dynamo, the more I think he will nail down a starting place in the championship team. He’s perpetual motion and really works hard. People will always point to his small stature but I reckon he has a lot to offer and would thrive playing off a big man like Aidan O’Shea.

O’Shea’s older brother Seamus made a welcome return to the colours today, himself and Enda Varley freed from the McGrath Cup which they play for UL in. I was very taken by the midfielder and he could be in line for a start next week.

It was interesting to see Ronan McGarrity not start. I’m sure John O’Mahony wouldn’t say he was dropped but that’s what it looks like and it may be no harm.

Neither he nor Tom Parsons offered much in the first two games so its no bad thing to let players know they need to up their games. Nothing works better than a bit of bench time.

O’Shea and Parsons struck up a good partnership at Under 21 level and they could well start next week. I reckon its a more balanced midfield than Parsons and McGarrity. We need a strong player here in terms of physicality. A David Brady/Colm McManamon type. I think O’Shea offers that to a degree. How much so would only become apparent after an extended run. Lets hope he gets that. If I was Tom Parsons I wouldn’t get too comfortable either. His performance will have to up too. In fact he should consider himself lucky to have started. After last week’s cameo at midfield, I thought Barry Kelly deserved an extended run there but O’Mahony left him at centre-half forward, which is something he very much isn’t.

Enda Varley hadn’t a great game but I’m a fan of the Garrymore man and he should be persevered with. He’s a strong, natural, scoring forward. We don’t have too many of them floating around.

It was also interesting to see Ger Cafferkey come back from injury today. We had been told that he would be touch and go for the Galway game, but now it would appear that he’ll be available for selection. Should he be picked at full-back? I’d give Alan Feeney the number three jersey and try Cafferkey out elsewhere. Maybe 4 or 6. But I think Mr O’Mahony will go with the conservative, don’t shake things up more than you have to approach.

It was also great to hear Kiltimagh winning today and book a place in the All-Ireland junior final. It would be something special to see such great football men like Peter Burke and Tomas Morley end their careers with an All-Ireland.

Mayo team v Roscommon: David Clarke; Liam O’Malley, Ger Cafferkey, Donal Vaughan, Peadar Gardiner, Trevor  Howley, Keith Higgins; Seamus O’Shea (0-1), Tom Parsons; Andy MOran (0-1), Barry Kelly, Trevor Mortimer; Mark Ronaldson (1-7, -1-0 pen, 5fs), Aidan O’Shea, Enda Varley. Subs used: Ronan McGarrity, Shane Nally, Neil Douglas.

A share of the spoils in Charlestown

A GAME we should have won but could have lost. So we make do with a draw. 1-11 apiece is how it finished in Fr O’Hara Park in Charlestown as Mayo shared the points with a much improved Sligo IT this afternoon.

A HANDFUL: Aidan O'Shea struck 1-2, all with his hands/fists.

Mayo cruised to victory in the corresponding fixture in Ballinode last year but Sligo have clearly got their act together and they go into this year’s Sigerson in altogether better shape than in 2009.

With these improvements in mind – borne out by their victory over the Rossies last week – then today was always going to be a bit of a tester but Mayo still did enough to win but just couldn’t sneak over the line.

A four point lead with six minutes to go should have been enough of a cushion for John O’Mahony’s men going down the home strait but the students struck a goal through Gary Gaughan in the 55th minute and a well converted ’45 by Galway senior ‘keeper Adrian Faherty in injury time levelled the match and if there was going to be a winner, you thought it would be the visitors.

Mayo were down to 14 men at that stage – Tom Parsons sent off for two yellow cards – but Mark Ronaldson did superbly to manufacture a scoring chance before being fouled 40 metres from goal. However his subsequent free dropped short – his only miss all day – and the whistle followed not long after.

There were five changes in personnel for Mayo from last week’s NUIG game. Robert Hennelly started in goal in place of David Clarke, Liam O’Malley and Lee Keegan came into defence for Chris Barrett and Trevor Howley with Barry Kelly and Neil Douglas in ahead of Pat Harte and Mikey Sweeney in attack.

Defensively Mayo were decent but only Keith Higgins can be truly happy with his display. Liam O’Malley and Alan Feeney showed flashes beside him in the full-back line but both were ultimately bettered by their direct opponents – Danny Cummins and Seamus Ryder respectively. Peadar Gardiner put in a good shift on the wing but Lee Keegan didn’t excel at centre-half back, although it should be pointed out he wasn’t helped by an overrun Mayo midfield.

Donal Vaughan moved from the corner to the wing but he struggled with a former Mayo man, Alan Costello who saw a lot of ball.

Worrying from a Mayo point of view though was how Ronan McGarrity and Tom Parsons fared out at midfield. They were well beaten by Cavan duo David Kivney and Eugene Keating and what was telling was that the only marks Mayo made in the game were made by centre-half forward Barry Kelly when he moved to midfield.

While Mayo had the better chances to win this game, this was in spite of the fact that we were losing the midfield battle.

A lot of credit must go to a hard working half-forward line of Andy Moran, Barry Kelly and Trevor Mortimer. Kelly, not a centre-half forward in my opinion, did get on a lot of ball and used it well. He was even more effective at midfield and starting him there ahead of either McGarrity or Parsons next time out might be a suitable wake-up call.

Indeed Ronan McGarrity got a wake-up call when he was subbed after forty minutes after a pretty ineffective shift.

Like last week our tactic was simple – let it in high to Aidan O’Shea. To be fair to the Breaffy man he performed very well as a target man. He struck 1-2 and was involved in another few scores too. But with speed merchants in the corner like Neil Douglas and Mark Ronaldson, Mayo were a bit slow to mix things up and keep Sligo guessing.

Mayo made two changes at the break. Kevin Walsh came on for his clubmate Trevor Mortimer and James Burke was put on in place of Donal Vaughan. Neither really got into the game, but Burke did have his hands full with Alan Costello.

Mikey Sweeney and Ger McDonagh came on later, McDonagh was on too late to make any impression but Sweeney did look lively when introduced and is not the type of player a corner back wants to see coming his way if he is tiring.

The quick summary of the scoring. Mayo led 0-6 to 0-4 at the break. O’Shea scored two (both fisted scores) and was fouled for a Ronaldson converted free after an unbelievable fetch – lets hope Ricky Nixon didn’t have anyone watching this game! Douglas and Gardiner both kicked two fine scores from play and Ronaldson added another free.

At the other end Danny Cummins clipped over two points, Eugene Keating kicked a wonderful point from the right wing while Sligo IT’s first point appeared to be an ‘own point’ off Alan Feeney.

Lively: Neil Douglas kicked two points.

Sligo led shortly after half-time with three quick points in a row – Alan Costello kicking the pick of them. But Mayo then upped it. Andy Moran pointed and then Aidan O’Shea palmed home from close range (still legal we think!) after a squared ball from Peadar Gardiner.

A Ronaldson free left Mayo four in front, a situation that would remain after Douglas and Ronaldson cancelled a brace from Stephen Coen.

Robert Hennelly made a fine save from David Givney to keep Sligo at bay but, shortly after, Gary Gaughan found the net and the game was back on. Adrian Faherty equalised in injury time and while Ronaldson had a chance in injury time, it fell short.

We won’t read too much into this game. Truth is we can’t. But I would like to see a few things tried out. I’m sure John O’Mahony wants to have his strongest team ready for the Galway league game but the team that started against Meath is not going to progress us this year so risks need to be taken and youth should be given its head. We’re a bit to conservative in my opinion. Time will tell.

Mayo: R Hennelly; L O’Malley, A Feeney, K Higgins; P Gardiner (0-1), L Keegan, D Vaughan; R McGarrity, T Parsons; A Moran (0-1), B Kelly, T Mortimer; M Ronaldson (0-5, 5 frees), A O’Shea (1-2), N Douglas (0-2). Subs: K Walsh for Mortimer (half time), J Burke for Vaughan (half time), M Sweeney for McGarrity, G McDonagh for Moran.

Here we go again

IT was the hardcores who made the trip to Garrymore today for the FBD. Truly very few Mayo supporters would be up or down whether this game was won or lost. We all just needed a fix. We’d be expecting to be there the week before but the game was postponed. So the winter break was even longer than we had thought and while this game in isolation offered little to get excited about – quite frankly, it was dire by times – but it did mean one thing. The show is back on the road.

The new season has begun and 2010 is underway. We don’t know where it is going to bring us. We can be gloomy about Mayo’s chances – we are good at that, myself included! But January does bring a certain optimism. A chance for little fireflies to shine in the darkness. Dickens spoke of the spring of hope and the winter of discontent. Well a lot of us have endured a winter of discontent since the Meath game last August. But with a new year comes fresh hope. The Mayo fan truly is the tale of two beings – the pessimist one minute, the eternal optimist the next.

THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN: You know its January and the FBD when there's more talk about the pitch being playable than the possible result. Thankfully, unlike this picture from last year in Ballyhaunis, Garrymore was in great nick today.

About 400 people ventured into the wilds of south Mayo today for the season’s opener. Familiar faces abounded. Some were counting down the days to this game and the start of the season, others had a more  worn expression, the one that says ‘sure there was nothing proper on the TV’.

The optimist will tell you after today that winning is a habit and today Mayo started as they meant to go on. His alter ego would say what’s the point in caring about winning if the players weren’t even too concerned with it.

And we’ll side with the second buck for now. Winning is secondary in the FBD. We’re more concerned with performance of individuals. To see what new lads can put their hands up and tell John O’Mahony they deserve a decent shot in the FBD.

We were also very intrigued to see how the new rules went and there’s plenty to be said there. More anon.

First the nuts and bolts. Mayo won (yippee!). The final score was 0-11 to 0-9 although very few knew that due to the lack of a scoreboard and the drowned out PA.

Mark Ronaldson kicked seven points for Mayo, five from frees. He was a real livewire, constantly showing out in front at right-corner forward. He was Mayo’s best player although Ballinrobe’s Donal Vaughan ran him close while we were also quite taken by the performance of Chrissy Barrett at wing-back.

But if Joe Kernan had a scout at the game, he would have went away singing the praises of the best player on the pitch and that would be music to Big Joe’s ears. Sean Armstrong was a class apart and the Galway forward showed us how much natural ability he has.

He also kicked seven points, also five frees but while Ronaldson’s scores were well taken, Armstrong’s were nearly entirely self made. Had Liam Sammon been a bit cuter last year and used Armstrong close to goal, I don’t think Mayo would be reigning Connacht champions.

A lack of threats outside of ‘Army’ meant that Mayo were in greater control of the game and they always looked the more likely. Without leaving second gear the likes of Trevor Mortimer, Ronan McGarrity, Tom Parsons and Andy Moran worked well around the  middle while Aidan O’Shea was a threat at full-forward, although Mayo’s tactic of bombing every single delivery in on top of him was as primitive as it was predictable.

Mayo also finished the game with just fourteen players after Keith Higgins was dismissed for a second yellow card near the end after a right oul schmozzle with Roscommon man Peter Domican. Even John O’Mahony and his NUIG counterpart came on the field to seperate the melee that followed.

But what of the new guys? Incredibly only one player started for Mayo who wasn’t in the panel last year and that was Castlebar Mitchels’ Alan Feeney. He lined out at full-back but he was brought out the field by Garreth Bradshaw before performing a more typically defensive role in the second half.

Without being truly tested by his direct opponent – although he did well when he was on Armstrong for a time – Feeney did look good in general play. He managed to get a hand in on several occasions and didn’t look unnerved by the step up in standard. Definitely one man who will get another run.

Half-time saw the introductions of local favourite Jimmy Killeen to corner-forward and former Ardnaree man James Burke to wing-back. Now I’m a fan of Killeen but, at 28, it is going to be hard for him to make the cut. You never know though and he has merited the run out. He did okay, kicked one sweet free and showed for the ball, although he didn’t receive it half as often as he would have liked.

James Burke could be an interesting option. He’s flying in club football in Dublin with Ballymun and won a Blue Stars club star award in recent years. Only 22, he has loads to offer and while he didn’t impress tremendously today, that’s not to say he didn’t anything wrong either. Definitely worth another look.

Two other players came on during the second half. Castlebar’s Neil Douglas is someone most people who follow club football will be familiar with. He was top scorer in the senior championship this year and, still Under 21, will be one of the main men for Raymond Dempsey’s side this spring.

He looked the business at senior level today too. He kicked one point, was fouled for another and generally was full of industry and threat. He is most definitely a prospect and we could be hearing a lot about him this year.

Also introduced to the side was Kevin Walsh from Shrule. He’s 26 now so like Killeen he is older than a lot of the try outs. But that’s not to say he shouldn’t be given a go. Just back from his soccer career which brought him to America and Iceland, he’s someone who could offer something. Its far too early to make a decision one way or the other so another one probably deserving of another run out.

For NUI Galway there were only two Mayo men starting. Shrule’s Kieran Conroy was at centre-half back and was solid in the main. Burrishoole’s Jason Doherty was listed at full-forward but played in the half-forward line. He’s a talented player but he wasn’t too productive today, seeing little enough ball. But he has ability so we won’t be too hard on him.

The rules? The main changes are the mark; the banning of the fistpass; and the removal of the square ball. The third rule wasn’t really examined today due to lack of activity for either ‘keeper in open play but the first two left plenty of pondering and wonderment.

For the mark – which is awarded for a clean kick-out catch outside the ’45 from where the ball has come from – it was hard to see much advantage accruing for those who got the mark. We only counted one mark where the fielder was surrounded when landing and actually benefitted on landing. In a lot of other cases the midfielder landed and where in the old rules he would have given a quick pop pass to an onrushing wing-back, today he had to step back and look for a kick pass.

In fact NUIG were denied a crucial point in the second half when they played on after taking a mark and David O’Gara pointed. The play was brought back and they gave possession away from the subsequent free-kick.

I think the referees are the key for this rule. They should be willing (and allowed) to play advantage unless the player is under threat of losing possession and then bring it back for a free. Otherwise it will slow down the game.

The ban on the hand-pass? There was about ten frees blown for this. Some were very questionable but in fairness to Declan Hunt it is very hard to distinquish between a hand pass and a fist pass. For the players, and anyone who plays can appreciate this, it is very hard to give a short fist pass with accuracy – this is where 99% would use a hand pass. So while it might force players into kicking more, it does restrict a quick, short pass to someone bursting through. I think it is worth a good, considered look. Time will tell. Pretty much like the Mayo project for 2010.

Mayo: David Clarke; Donal Vaughan, Alan Feeney, Keith Higgins; Peadar Gardiner, Trevor Howley, Chris Barrett; Ronan McGarrity, Tom Parsons; Andy Moran, Pat Harte, Trevor Mortimer (0-1); Mark Ronaldson (0-7, 5fs), Aidan O’Shea (0-1), Mikey Sweeney. Subs: Jimmy Killeen (0-1, f) for Sweeney (half-time), James Burke for Howley (half-time), Neil Douglas (0-1) for Harte; Kevin Walsh for Mortimer.

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!

FBD off

I know I’m late with the news but just in case anyone reads the FBD preview below and thinks the game is going ahead on Sunday – well its not.

The Connacht Council, in their wisdom, have put all of Sunday’s games back to the following Sunday which is a perfectly logical decision. But don’t be sure games will go ahead the following week either.

Guess I’ll have to watch a replay of the Meath game on Sunday afternoon so. I apologise in advance if my mood is dark next week . . .

The light didn’t go out, it just dimmed

After a few months hibernation I’m back. I knew when I picked the name ThereIsALightThatNeverGoesOut for this blog I was leaving myself wide open to friendly fire if I took a spell off. My last post was just ahead of the All-Ireland Minor final but, like the King in the Kit Kat ad I’m not dead baby, I’m just taking a break.

OUT: Austy O'Malley has not been named in the Mayo FBD squad.

Each January brings with it new hope, new drive and new passion. Be that in our own individual lives or in the hopes and ambitions of those we follow. And with Mayo that rings true too. We’re back now for the FBD on Sunday against NUI Galway in Garrymore. It is about as far removed from Meath in Croke Park as we could imagine but every year brings a fresh start and a chance for everyone to right the wrongs of last year.

It will be a very interesting year for Mayo. A lot of question marks, unfortunately, hang over us. How players and management go about answering these questions will be the mark of them.

Certainly the FBD won’t provide all the answers. Truth is it will answer damn all but it may give a clue as to intention. Intention among the management perhaps to give youth its fling, to experiment. Intention among players to see every game as an opportunity to progress individually, and, as a result, progress the team.

The panel for the FBD has been picked (surely this is ridiculous – should managers not be given the chance to experiment as widely as possible instead of being curtailed by a 26 man panel?). There are some new additions to the panel – which are welcome – but I don’t feel they have went far enough.

We all know Mayo need to bring new players on stream so why not leave those players which we know can do a particular job and use an experimental panel. For instance are we going to learn anything about Peadar Gardiner, Pat Harte, Ronan McGarrity or Trevor Mortimer by watching them in the FBD? Methinks not. So why not give them a slight rest (training trial games are taking place most weekends anyway) and give a few young guns a shot at the title.

Sadly I think we are a bit to slow to experiement and take risks. But we will see in time.

Certainly we can excuse a lot of Under 21 players being absent with their championship opener v Leitrim less than eight weeks ago (there’s still seven in the panel while two more are absent due to college commitments – Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty). But I would have found it interesting to see how players like James Kilcullen, James Burke and Enda Varley, all who have been involved in trial games in recent weeks, would fare out in the FBD. Certainly Kilcullen is as strong a midfielder as we have in the county while Burke picked up a Dublin Club Star at wing-back this year.

Varley is a potentially class scoring forward (we don’t grow them on trees, do we?) although he could still be in college – a mature student he most definitely would be at this stage!

Still it is good to see guys who performed well in the club championship getting a run. Castlebar’s Neil Douglas and Alan Feeney were exceptional all year while we’ve seen plenty of Kevin Keane’s ability at full-back. Hard to credit he’s only turned 19.

Looking at those who are picked we can surmise a few things. Of those missing from last year’s panel, travels explain Dillon and Mort the Younger; injuries accounts for Aidan Kilcoyne, Tom Cunniffe Ger Caff and Kenny O’Malley while college commitments explain Seamus O’Shea, Kieran Conroy (who will play against Mayo for NUIG) and Kevin McLoughlin.

That leaves four of last year’s panel unaccounted for. So what to make of the absences of Messrs Nallen, Heaney, Padden and Austin O’Malley? Nalllen and Heaney missing the FBD would be nothing new but we can ask the question – will we see them back? Certainly I do think we have seen the last of James Nallen in a Mayo jersey. Not being used last year in championship games against Galway and Meath when Mayo were crying out for his experience may well have made his mind up for him. A pity. A truly wonderful servant.

Will David Heaney give it another go? Your guess is as good as mine. Like Nallen, Heaney owes us nothing. And he did impress at midfield against Roscommon and Galway before being overrun against Meath. If he is coming back, I would hope that he is brought back much sooner than last year when himself, Nallen and Aidan Higgins only returned after the NFL.

And so to Messrs Padden and O’Malley. While I have said that it would make sense to ‘rest’ players whom we know what are capable of, John O’Mahony doesn’t seem to have this attitude so it would be wrong, in my opinion, to reckon these two lads have been rested.

Personally I reckon Billy Joe Padden may be retiring from the inter-county scene. Recently married, living in Newry and working and Kildare, something will have to give and, unfortunately, football would appear to be the most expendable.

Austy could be another matter. Struggling to make the Vincent’s team, could his inter-county days be at an end? We can only speculate for now, time will tell us how close we are.

Sunday in Garrymore is the venue for the near annual opener at this stage with NUIG (throw-in 2pm) but keep an ear tuned to Mid West because I can’t imagine this one going ahead if conditions are still as cold then as they are now.

Anyway the Mayo panel is as follows: Goalkeepers: David Clarke (Ballina), Robert Hennelly (Breaffy).

Defenders: Liam O’Malley (Burrishoole), Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe), Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis), Peadar Gardiner (Crossmolina), Trevor Howley (Knockmore), Chris Barrett (Belmullet), Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen), Alan Feeney (Castlebar), Shane Nally (Garrymore), Lee Keegan (Westport), Kevin Keane (Westport).

Midfielders: Ronan McGarrity (Ballina), Tom Parsons (Charlestown), Barry Kelly (Ballaghaderreen), Pat Harte (Ballina).

Forwards: Trevor Mortimer (Shrule/Glencorrib), Mark Ronaldson (Shrule/Glencorrib), Mikey Sweeney (Kiltane), Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy), Neil Douglas (Castlebar), Ger McDonagh (Castlebar), Barry Moran (Castlebar), Jimmy Killeen (Garrymore), Kevin Walsh (Shrule/Glencorrib).

Don’t show the white feather

FIRST things I haven’t been able to give as much time to Sunday’s All-Ireland minor final as I would like to because of work constraints. In fact I’ve been very quiet since the Meath defeat due to work pressures. But we’re well into the weekend and the final is within sight.

A DRY RUN HOPEFULLY! Mayo captain Aidan Walsh getting a good feel for the Markham Cup at this week's press session. Hopefully it will repeat on Sunday.

A DRY RUN HOPEFULLY! Mayo captain Aidan Walsh getting a good feel for the Markham Cup at this week's press session. Hopefully it will repeat on Sunday.

The first thing that strikes me about this game is the way the Armagh team is being talked up, even by their own manager. Now I’m the first to criticise cute-hoorism in the GAA. The ‘yerra we’ll turn up’ lines that the Kerry boys come out with are something else (as an aside Tom O’Sullivan outdid himself this week when he said ‘we’ll have to play beyond the best of our abilities to be in with any chance’!) and it really is an Irish thing to talk yourself down.

So a ‘we’re good and we know it’ approach is refreshing. But at minor level? Can you really judge how good a team is at such an unpredictable level. None of these lads will have played in an All-Ireland minor final before. It is a huge occasion and it really can play tricks with the mind. Creating an impression that you are invincible could work havoc with Armagh heads. Some people think they only have to turn up to collect the Markham Cup. Their manager hasn’t helped by describing them as ‘special’ and ‘great’ at various stages. Maybe they might be and good luck to them. But ideal preparation I don’t think it is.

You can be sure Ray Dempsey’s Mayo won’t have swelled heads. Dempsey is the master of ‘yerra’! I think he must have spent a few summers in South Kerry learning from Jack O’Connor! I would have liked to have heard a few interviews with the Mayo minors but Dempsey has imposed a ban on them talking. Healthy? Some might say so. I reckon it’s no harm for their own confidence to expose them to the press. After all by the end of the final they’ll be playing in front of over 70,000 people. If they’re not able for a few questions then they’ll hardly manage that. But that’s only a small aside.

What I really like about the Mayo team under Dempsey is their character and honesty. They don’t know when they’re beaten. They really will plug away. They are not, by any means, the most gifted Mayo minor team we’ve ever had – 91, 99, 04 and 08 were special teams in my opinion – but that doesn’t mean they can’t win on Sunday.

Mick Burke managed a very limited Mayo minor team to our last All-Ireland in 1985. He became famous for the line ‘you can only dance with the girls in the hall’ as a way of expressing how you must make the most of the hand of players you are dealt. He did.

It was great to see an interview with him in this week’s Mayo News and it was worth noting the similarities between his team and the class of 2009. Unfancied both. But what they have is character and a ferocious workrate. The key things he says that made his team stand out were a good goalkeeper, a good freetaker, a good midfielder and a good goalscorer. Sound familiar yet?

Not alone that I think Mayo have a very fine defence and I think this will be the key to them winning on Sunday. People will say Down destroyed Mayo in the first half of the semi-final. I guarantee you they didn’t destroy the defence.

Only wing-back Ciaran Charlton got taken – by a super talent in Caolan Mooney – but all others stood strong. And why did Mayo struggle I hear you ask? We had a rookie in at midfield who struggled for oxygen beside Danny Kirby who was being pushed hard because of the next factor – we had no half-forward line in that  half. We were shapeless at midfield and in the half-forward line as a result.

Raymond Dempsey must take some of the blame for that. But he rectified things with a series of inspired half-time changes. Armagh will be a step-up we’re told. I don’t doubt that. The key is how much of  a step-up? They’ve a serious inside forward line but I’ve been very impressed with the Mayo full-back line of Walsh, Rogers and Gavin all year. None of the trio have done much wrong and Rogers has been particularly impressive – a senior career beckons in my opinion.

We’ve a solid half-back line too. Shane McDermott is a classy centre-back and Crowe and Charlton are capable wing-backs. Charlton is certainly better than he showed against Down.

But how we line out further forward is the key. Andrew Farrell is picked to line out beside Kirby at midfield. Farrell has played in the half-forward line all year and isn’t a huge player in terms of height so a lot of people are assuming he won’t play there and that team captain Aidan Walsh, picked at 14, will start at midfield.

I’m not so sure. I reckon Ray Dempsey could try to play Walsh inside with Cillian O’Connor and Alex Corduff to try to make hay off a small enough Armagh full-back line. It would be a serious gamble, to not play Walsh at midfield considering how we struggled without him there at various stages through the year. If it works it is a master stroke. But we’ll have a small half-forward line so winning ball could be a problem.

I could see either Corduff or Walsh moving out as a third midfielder with O’Connor left in with one of the big men. But it is very hard to assess how Mayo will line out from 8 up.

Armagh will take beating. But I reckon the longer Mayo can stay in the game, the more Armagh might begin to doubt themselves and, at the same time, Mayo will prosper. If we’re within two points of the favourites with ten minutes to go, we’ll win. I firmly believe that is how it will play out. Don’t show the white feather. Maigh Eo abú.