Mayo joint-managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly have hinted at sweeping changes to next year’s panel, believing new blood is required in the county’s senior set-up.
The joint managers acknowledge that James Horan tinkered little with the squad during his four-year reign and the pair are confident there are at least six players from the emerging pool who will strengthen their All-Ireland bid.
“We believe while three or four years have passed with the current group, younger lads below in the minor and U21 ranks have got four years older and more mature,” said Connelly.
“We believe there is at least five or six lads who could really add to the current panel of players, and hopefully will make a difference in the upcoming Championship.
“There is a panel of 35 lads there from the last four years. We need to see what is out there besides that. With a view to doing that, we have brought in 20 young players and put them on a strength and conditioning programme. The idea of the programme is that they do themselves justice in trial games post Christmas. We want to find at least five players during the FBD competition to strengthen the core panel. We will analyse the performance of players throughout the league and we will be cutting down the panel until we arrive at our 2015 Championship panel.”
Kerry provide the opposition in their league opener on Sunday, February 1.
“It is the one the players will most like,” continued Connelly. “It is a huge challenge to go to the lion’s den, but we hope the players will be up to it.”
Meanwhile, Ballygunner selector Padraig Connolly dismisses the significance of home advantage ahead of their Munster quarter final clash with Cratloe on Sunday.
Na Piarsaigh surprised the Gunners at Walsh Park on their last provincial appearance in 2011 and Connolly claims that local venues count for very little on the basis of recent evidence.
“If you look at the history, over the last five years the away team has won three times as many games as the home team have.”
Connolly respects the star quality available to the visitors and he studied their county final victory over Crusheen.
“On paper, they are as good a club team as I have seen in a long time. There’s three All Stars from last year and six on the Clare panel. Conor McGrath, Conor Ryan, Podge Collins and Cathal McInerney are all top-class. You could describe the Clare county final as a bit of an arm wrestle. I was impressed with them and they went about their job very efficiently.”
In the three-week break since collecting their 13th Waterford title, Ballygunner have looked to shore up defensively after gifting glaring goal chances to Mount Sion. “On paper, we beat Mount Sion by 13 points but it was a lot closer than that,” Connolly argues. “There was certainly phases in the game where we lapsed and I’d say we were lucky not to concede goals at vital times. If those opportunities are presented to Cratloe on Sunday, they will take them.”
Both sides battled through unspectacular county finals but Connolly expects an exciting affair on Sunday. “Munster club is a different competition and quite often the game opens up a bit and a team seems to throw off the shackles and play a bit more hurling. My gut feeling is it may be a better hurling game than either of the two county finals. I think it will be a good game. The nerves won’t be as bad as they were in the county final.”
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