There’s a report in the Cavan Echo on the challenge game we had with the Cavan Bucks last week in Athlone, which I was alerted to by a post on Mayofans.com. The match report is contained in a pdf download of the paper itself (all 2.5 MB of it - readers on dial-up beware!), which is an odd way to make your content available online but, then again, this is Cavan we’re talking about.
According to the report, we lost by 2-11 to 1-11 (not 1-10) as I reported last week but the scoreline isn’t of huge interest. What is of note is the team we put out and, without further ado, here it is:
David Clarke, Aidan Higgins, Liam O’Malley, Keith Higgins; Peadar Gardiner, Ger Brady, Trevor Mortimor; David Heaney, Barry Moran; Aidan Campbell, Ciaran McDonald, Alan Dillon; Conor Mortimor, BJ Padden, Austin O’Malley.
Where does one start? Okay, how about the half-back line, populated by forwards? Neither Ger nor Trevor strike me as natural half-backs, I have to say, but with Enda Devenney’s apparent collapse in form and the vacancy that appears to be there at no.6, I can see that we have to try out some different options. But what about Trevor Howley or David Heaney? I can’t see Ger Brady fitting in at centre-back and Trevor’s natural aggression would seem to be more of an asset away from our half of the field. It's all a bit odd, I must admit.
Barry Moran back at midfield is a welcome development and I’d say he’ll start there on July 7th, in tandem with either David Heaney or David Brady (who didn’t line out in Athlone). Ideally, we’d want DB at 3 and Heaney at 6 but then you’d have to start someone like James Kilcullen alongside Moran in the middle, which would be a very inexperienced pairing so a Heaney-Moran axis at centre-field is probably our best option at this stage.
Aidan Campbell and Austie were both back in the forwards and both are likely to be in with a shout for a starting place the next day. Johnno rates Campbell and he certainly is an exciting prospect but he hasn’t really delivered at senior level as yet. I’m no Austie groupie but, after Salthill, we have to look at all the options and Austie, if he hits form, can be lethal. The problem is that it’s been two years since he gave any kind of compelling performance in a Mayo jersey and while his recent club form is encouraging, there's no guarantee that this will translate into the kind of performance we'd all love to see him give for the county.
And what of BJ at full forward, completing his return journey from one end of the field to the other and back again? I don’t know, I simply don’t know and I’m not sure Johnno does either. BJ is worth a place on the team (remember, he was one of the very few who didn't buckle against Kerry last September) but, what with all the positional switches he's had to make for the cause, it's difficult to know where he should line out. Personally, I doubt if it's full-forward - where I'd like us to try out someone like Pat Harte - and, with all the problems we have further back, it's likely to be there that we'll need him more.
Apart from DB (who was in any event a sub in Salthill), for the match in Athlone we were missing Kenneth O’Malley, Andy Moran, the suspended Pat Harte, James Nallen, Enda Devenney and Kevin O’Neill from the side that lined out against Galway. I’m not sure if any of them came on as subs last week as the match report only lists the Cavan replacements, although they do say that Tom Cunniffe came on and scored a point.
So, what can one make of all this? Not a lot, I think, apart from the fact that we don’t seem to have a clue who should be lining out where at the back. Moreover, with Keith Higgins – arguably our most influential back – now out of the equation since the match at Athlone, the situation with the backs has deteriorated still further. What chance have we now of fielding any kind of cohesive defence on July 7th? You'd have to admit that it's not looking hectic.
Elsewhere, we’ll at least muddle through at midfield, where Barry Moran’s return from injury is a welcome development. We’ve also got plenty of options in the forwards but, as ever, the problem will be to get the right balance. That’s another conundrum for Johnno and the selectors to sort out over the coming few weeks but their most pressing issue will obviously be to figure out what the hell to do with the backline.