Connacht FBD League Preview – MAYO vs GALWAY (Friday, 12th January, 7.30pm MacHale Park) 


At the second time of asking, Connacht rivals Mayo and Galway will finally lock horns in their first of three scheduled showdowns in 2018.

This contest was meant to be played last Sunday only for the late decision of referee Paddy Neilan to call the game off due to a frozen pitch in Castlebar has meant a five-day delay.

While results in the FBD League will count for little when years are rated based on championship performance, nearly 2,500 supporters did head to MacHale Park on Sunday and a sizeable crowd is expected for the re-fixture.

It’s a chance for rival managers Stephen Rochford and Kevin Walsh to look at options ahead the commencement of the National League on January 28th and their next coming together in Pearse Stadium on February 11th.  They also meet in the Connacht Championship on May 13th.

Retirements, injuries and Corofin’s All-Ireland involvement mean Walsh’s deck is light but they still began with a 1-12 to 0-11 victory over Sligo on Wednesday, 3rd January.  Moycullen’s Sean Kelly got the decisive goal before half-time while Peter Cooke, Frankie Burke and Adrian Varley shared nine points.

It’ll be a different line-up from last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final to Kerry with only Gareth Bradshaw and Paul Conroy named in the original selection.  Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh’s senior debut ended with a black card against Sligo and travelling supporters will be interested to see what impact he can have.

Rory Lavelle might get a start in goal while Eamonn Brannigan, Johnny Duane and Barry McHugh could feature in the attack.

(Video – Midwest Radio)

Mayo’s All-Ireland finalists have just returned from a 10-day holiday in Malaysia so Rochford will be fielding an experimental team.

The postponement has played havoc with both teams’ preparations, especially Mayo who field three times in four days.

They drew with Leitrim on Wednesday (0-13 to 1-10) only being denied by a late Brendan Gallagher goal.

Barry Moran was the only member of the 2017 panel to start though Kevin McLoughlin did come off the bench.  David Clarke and Andy Moran didn’t travel with the squad so could be fresh for a tilt at Galway.

However, Rochford was able bring in other names.  Alan Freeman returned after taking a year out scoring two points, Kevin Keane is back following a cruciate injury after Westport won the All-Ireland intermediate crown, and he also has Neil Douglas and Jason Gibbons to call on.

Both teams are in action again Sunday (Galway vs Leitrim, 2pm Clonbur) so both managers are likely to make full use of their panels.  The result won’t be the most important part though neither will want to lose.  Both managers will hope to identify potential new names that can be part of the year ahead.

Even if Mayo bring in experienced names, this game is too soon and while Galway are also struggling, the momentum gained from an early win over their rivals will be beneficial.  Supporters will be treated to an enjoyable contest with the away side shading it.

Verdict: Galway