The team for Saturday's second round qualifier clash with Derry was named this evening according to Mayofans.com (citing Mid-West Radio) and GAAboard.com, although RTE has nothing to say about it as yet. Hell, who needs the imprimatur of the national media? Here's the team:
D Clarke; T Cunniffe, L O'Malley, T Howley; D Heaney, D Kilcullen, T Mortimer; P Harte, D Brady; BJ Padden, P Hanley, A Dillon; T Mortimer, B Moran, A Moran.
In short, Aidan Higgins loses his place to Tom Cunniffe, who impressed last Saturday against Cavan when he came on for Higgins in the second half. Pat Harte returns from suspension to take his place alongside clubmate David Brady in midfield, with David Heaney switching to wing-back, where he displaces Peadar Gardiner. For the first time in aeons, we've named the same forward line for two matches running. That's where 1-19 gets you, I guess.
Aidan Higgins can't really have any complaints about losing out to young Tom Cunniffe, who played a blinder when he came on against Cavan, bringing stability and some real tigerish aggression into what had been a fairly frighteningly loose full-back line up till then. He definitely deserves his chance to line out in the position from the start against Derry.
Liam O'Malley couldn't have had any complaints were he to have found himself warming his posterior on the bench at Celtic Park as well. I know he's a good footballer and, in particular, is a fine corner-back but a full-back he sure isn't and I cannot for the life of me understand why, after the sorry way in which he was taken apart against Cavan, that he's lining out again at no. 3 at Celtic Park. And marking Paddy Bradley, to boot. We're just asking to get our holes kicked, I fear.
Peadar Gardiner has been edging ever closer to getting dropped for some time now and his kamikaze display against Cavan appears to have been the last straw. David Heaney did well when switched back there the last day and you'd have to say that young Kilcullen now has two formidable amigos flanking him in the half-backs. This could be part of Johnno's plan to protect the shop further back as the Derry lads will quickly think twice about trying to run through that half-back line. However, in the same way that Cavan did, they'll still be able to bypass this particular Maginot Line by simply hoofing Hail Mary balls over them into the square.
On the credit side, it's great to see Pat Harte back in the starting team again. We missed his energy and strong runs through the middle the last day and these skills should dovetail nicely with the more sedentary talents of the Elder Brady in that area. Given that leakages at the back are likely to remain a problem, it would also be useful if Pat could weigh in with a few of those trademark booming long-range points of his. No more than the last day, I reckon we'll need all the scores we can get in Celtic Park if we're to make it into the hat for the third round of the qualifiers on Sunday evening.