Jet lag could rule Mayo’s Nallen out of semi-final clash with Armagh

MAYO defender James Nallen is a major doubt for his county’s National Football League semi-final clash with Armagh on April 17 - because he will only be arriving back from holidays hours before the throw-in.

The two-time Allstar is currently in the Carribbean and is not due to return until the morning of Mayo’s semi-final. The game was originally due to take place at Croke Park, but the Dublin venue will not be available now because of re-seeding work.

The Crossmolina man will also have to recover from an exhausting twelve hour journey, if he is to be ready to line out against Kieran McGeeney and company.

Mayo manager John Maughan said: “James is on holiday in Trinidad and Tobago and is not due to return until the morning of the semi-final. But he told me before he went to let him know where the semi-final was going to be so he was obviously fairly confident that we were going to get through. At this stage he is still very much part of our plans.”

Mayo qualified by virtue of winning all but two of their games in Division 1A and also pipped Kerry by virtue of having scored more throughout their league campaign.

However, the Mayo manager was anxious to point out that his team got what they deserved. “We’re all pretty pleased to have qualified,” he said.

“We got a little rub of the green for the first time in a while but we feel, overall, that we deserved it. We won five of our seven games, were unlucky to lose our first match against Dublin, and I thought we contained Kerry pretty well. In my opinion Kerry are the best team in the country and we competed with them for long stages.

“The most pleasing aspect of the league for me has been the appetite and application of the lads,” added Maughan. “It’s been excellent. They’ve looked very fresh, they haven’t been training collectively more than twice a week, we only started back in January, so we haven’t got an awful lot of work done.”

He also explained why he was not seen on the touchline as often as usual during last Sunday’s game against Westmeath. Shrewd observers of Mayo football had noticed that the normally active Maughan was unusually passive last weekend.

“At this stage there’s no need to go out and be barking at guys,” he said. “These are smart players, and they’re professional and clever enough to realise what has to be done. They want to be better today than they were yesterday and are prepared to work hard to achieve their goals. There’s no need to be going around banging tables.

“Winning the league wasn’t part of the script at the beginning; retaining our Division 1 status was the priority. But as the league progressed our goals have shifted and now that we’re in the semi-finals we intend to try and win it. We’re certainly going to go for it.”

Meanwhile, this year’s International Rules Series between Ireland and Australia will be played in Perth and Melbourne in late October.

The opening Test will be held at the Subiaco Oval in Perth on October 21, (which held a sell out attendance of over 41,000 for the first Test in 2003) with the second match to be played at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne on October 28, in the lead-up to Melbourne Cup week.

This will be the first time that a test has been held in the ultra modern Telstra Dome, as Ireland’s previous visits to Melbourne saw them play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Ireland are the current holders of the Cormac McAnallen Cup, having won both tests in Croke Park last October, while Australia won the 2003 series with the two matches drawing more than 100,000 fans in total.

GAA president, Sean Kelly said: “The International dimension has provided an unprecedented opportunity for the top players from both codes to come together and represent their respective countries. The series has gone from strength to strength in recent years and I am sure there will again be enormous interest among the Irish sporting public in the visits to Perth and Melbourne in October.”

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