James Horan has named ten of his 2020 All-Ireland final starters in the Mayo team that will launch the county’s latest Sam Maguire quest in this Saturday’s Connacht SFC opener against Sligo in Markievicz Park.
The promoted five include two players poised for their championship baptisms – Garrymore's Enda Hession at corner-back and Knockmore’s Darren McHale on the ‘40’.
There are also call-ups for Rob Hennelly – who has reclaimed the goalkeeper’s jersey following the retirement of David Clarke – Michael Plunkett in the half-back line and wing-forward Bryan Walsh, who made his SFC debut last November.
Horan juggled his corner-back options following last January’s retirement of former All Star Chris Barrett, but Hession would appear to have emerged as the front-running successor.
As already well flagged, Mayo must plot their Connacht title defence without Cillian O’Connor, the championship’s all-time record scorer, arising from the Achilles tendon injury he suffered against Clare in their Division 2 promotion play-offwin over Clare.
His hamstrung younger brother, Diarmuid O’Connor, also misses out while Stephen Coen is another notable omission.
There are four changes from the Mayo team that started in Ennis, the promoted quartet comprising Plunkett, McHale and the recalled duo of Eoghan McLaughlin and Conor Loftus.
Kevin McLoughlin will join Andy Moran and Keith Higgins as only the third Mayo player to make 150 league and championship appearances, while Aidan O’Shea will skipper the team on his 70th SFC outing.
Tony McEntee, the former Mayo selector now installed as Sligo manager, has also named his starting team. The Armagh native makes five changes to the team that emphatically overcame Wexford in their last Division 4 outing, with call-ups for Ryan Feehily, Paul McNamara, Paddy O’Connor, David Quinn and Nathan Rooney.
Mayo (SFC v Sligo): R Hennelly; E Hession, O Mullin, L Keegan; P Durcan, M Plunkett, E McLaughlin; M Ruane, C Loftus; K McLoughlin, D McHale, B Walsh; T Conroy, A O’Shea, R O’Donoghue.
Sligo: EKilgallon; R Feehily, E McGuinness, E Lyons; K Cawley, P McNamara, D Cummins; P O’Connor, P Kilcoyne; D Quinn, C Lally, M Gordon; N Rooney, N Murphy, S Carrabine.