O'Mahony hails retiring Mayo veterans
Mayo's two longest-serving players have both officially retired from inter-county football.
James Nallen and David Heaney informed manager John O'Mahony on Monday evening that their time as Mayo footballers was over.
O'Mahony, who confirmed that it was their own decision, paid tribute to the service given by the two players over the years.
Nallen and Heaney both live in Galway and have completed transfers from their respective clubs in their native county, Crossmolina and Swinford, to Claregalway.
Nallen played and lost in four All-Ireland finals with Mayo (1996, '97, 2004 and '06) while Heaney had the misfortune to lose in three.
"They are two players who deserved to win an All-Ireland medal for the service they have given," said O'Mahony.
Nallen didn't feature much in last year's championship but Heaney's departure is perhaps more of a surprise as he is still only in his early 30s. Nallen has been a member of the Mayo senior squad since the 1994/95 NFL and on losing teams in the All-Ireland U-21 finals of 1994 and '95.
"I couldn't speak highly enough of either of them. When you think that James was substituted so early in the 2006 All-Ireland final against Kerry yet he was able to bounce back after that is a real tribute to him," said O'Mahony. "David is living down in Galway too and has decided to move club. He is also getting married later in the year. It is entirely their decision to retire. We have been keeping in touch lately to see what their position is," confirmed O'Mahony.
Heaney made his first championship start against Offaly in the 1997 All-Ireland semi-final and has offered versatility at full-back, centre-back and midfield.
Nallen has been equally versatile, popping up in any number of defensive and midfield positions. One of the highlights of his career was the goal he scored against Kerry in the 1996 All-Ireland semi-final.
There are now no remaining members of the 1996 and '97 teams that lost successive All-Ireland finals to Meath and Kerry.
Meanwhile, Mayo will be without a number of players for Sunday's league opener against Galway. Pat Harte is working abroad and will be unavailable for up to eight weeks, Aidan Kilcoyne has a shoulder injury, Barry Moran sustained serious ligament damage last month and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future while Tom Cunniffe is also ruled out.
With Conor Mortimer and Alan Dillon still away in South Africa, Mayo will be depending on a more inexperienced side for the renewal of their rivalry with the Tribesmen.