Leaving cert students, debutants, and trial by error - How James Horan is maximising Mayo's league campaign 7 months ago

Leaving cert students, debutants, and trial by error - How James Horan is maximising Mayo's league campaign

Horan makes four more changes to his starting line-up this weekend.

Dessie Farrell claimed after Dublin's defeat to Mayo, that the league is for 'experimentation', and he is right, but you only have to look at their opposition on that night to see the tinkering and trying master, James Horan.

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When it was revealed that Mayo made seven changes from the team that beat Monaghan, many believed that they weren't taking the Dublin threat seriously, assuming that the capital's poor start would make them easy targets.

Truth is, Horan was simply doing what he does best, and that's blood new players in the thick of battle, and give them opportunities when the pressure is on.

Pre-season tournaments are a great way for new players to find their feet, but the league is a whole different story, especially in Division One.

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You are up against the very best, and survival is crucial if you want to be as prepared as you possibly can be to stake a claim at the All-Ireland title.

Last Saturday evening, on his first appearance at Croke Park, in just his third league appearance, Aiden Orme was thrust under the spotlight, and only made it shine brighter.

The 22-year-old was magnificent, and not only did he finish up with 1-1 to his name, his workmate and intensity made him look as though he had been a Mayo senior footballer for years.

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It's not just young blood that's been important, even the roles of established players are being experimented with, as Aidan O'Shea has been playing well coming on as an impact sub, roaming between the two 50s.

Diarmuid O'Connor seems to have stepped up as more of a leader in the team, a real 'grab the game by the scruff of the neck' type of player, and was outstanding at the weekend.

The experiments don't look to be stopping anytime soon, as the Connacht champions are set to face Armagh, another team who are in flying form at the moment.

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After dominating against Dublin, then beating the All-Ireland champions Tyrone, and drawing against an amped up Monaghan side, the Orchard county are the team to beat in this league.

That won't stop Horan from taking full advantage of the occasion, and seeing it as an opportunity to give young players experience that money cant't buy.

Ballina's young stars, Frank Irwin and Sam Callinan, are set to make their first league starts against Kieran McGeeney's Ulster side.

Callinan is currently a leaving cert student whose only appearance this year was when he came off the bench in the draw with Donegal.

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The youngster is selected at left half-back, while Irwin has been named at full-forward, a name that is synonymous with Mayo team sheets, as his father once played in the red and green also.

Proud dad, Gabriel, is a former Mayo goalkeeper, winning three Connacht titles and an All-Star award in 1989.

Westport’s Fionn McDonagh and Crossmolina’s Conor Loftus both come into the attack. Donnacha McHugh, Bryan Walsh, Jack Carney and Paul Towey are the players to make way.