Almost six months after our 2007 championship exit, Mayo's footballers finally take the field in something resembling a competitive fixture this coming Sunday when they take on NUIG in the Connacht FBD League at Ballinrobe. The FBD, like the O'Byrne and McKenna Cups (and, to a lesser extent, the McGrath Cup) in the other provinces, serves as a kind of pre-season before the NFL gets going at the start of February. It's a nothing tournament - even we wouldn't get excited about winning it.
So Johnno is spot on when he describes it as a "non-event", though he does so due to the fact that so many players will be unavailable, given that the third level institutions have first call on county panellists. Johnno has apparently been left with around twenty waifs and strays for the opening match with NUIG on Sunday so it's anyone's guess who will line out where in Ballinrobe. Here's Mike Finnerty's tuppence worth. And Sean Rice's.
Finnerty says that both James Gill and Pat Kelly will feature in the FBD matches this month (after NUIG, we play Sligo IT and Roscommon), which, if true, is good news. While he obviously possesses bags of talent, Gill has delivered very little at senior level to date and so his departure from the inter-county scene last year was little surprise. It would be nice to see him prove all the doubters wrong in his second coming. Paddy Kelly has been in flying form at club level for Dublin's St Vincent's (as has Brian Maloney) on their way to the All-Ireland club semis and so his recall is of little surprise.
Other names - new ones this time - mentioned by Finnerty as being in the frame are Achill's Colm Cafferkey and Donal Corrigan, Knockmore's John Brogan, Charlestown's Tony Mulligan, Westport's goalie Tom Higgins and Shrule-Glencorrib's David 'Roundy' Geraghty. I expect the last lad named there is on his own special weights programme.
Sadly, I won't be able to make it to Ballinrobe for Sunday's "non-event" - the lure of Parnell Park on Saturday night for the Dubs against the Goat Suckers has proved too strong - but it's great to see action of some sort returning after almost half a year's absence. And, with plenty of action on the menu over the coming weeks and months, it should also make it a bit easier to keep the site humming.