By Anthony Hennigan
As ways to try and win an All-Ireland senior football title go, it’s quite the novel one. A player for every year you’ve been chasing Sam Maguire. Well, we’ve tried practically everything else at this stage.
It’s 71 years since Sean Flanagan and his teammates paraded the big silver chalice through the towns and villages of Mayo but eleven finals, thirteen if you include the replays, have come and gone with never the Mayo captain the one to scale the steps of the Hogan Stand. And 71 is the number of players James Horan has handed senior appearances to since his return as Mayo manager in 2019. A coincidence or an omen in this year’s mission of the Green and Red to end the drought? You’d be favouring the former over the latter at this stage, given they’re already sat in the Last Chance Saloon on the back of last month’s defeat to Galway in the Connacht quarter-final. Monaghan are the latest gunslingers who will come waltzing into Castlebar on Saturday.
59 of those 71 Mayo players have appeared in league or championship matches, the rest in the FBD League.
This investigation of the depths to which James Horan has gone in his attempt to find a championship-winning blend was sparked by statistics which appear in the 2022 GAA Media Guide, which was issued to the press in advance of this season’s football and hurling championships.
Courtesy of the Ferguson Archive we were told that 792 people had been bestowed the honour of playing senior championship football for Mayo. That number has increased by one since the appearance of Kilmeena’s Jack Carney off the bench against the Tribesmen during the one-point loss at MacHale Park. The Archive reckons 931 men have also appeared in the National Football League for Mayo but with the release of the statistics coming so close to the end of this year’s league campaign, whether that figure has taken into account the most recent debuts handed to Ballina’s Sam Callinan and Frank Irwin, or Donnacha McHugh of Castlebar Mitchels, I cannot be certain.
Nevertheless, nationally, it’s said that up to the beginning of this 2022 season 25,169 footballers have played senior inter-county championship and that 29,646 have played league. Dublin has the most players with championship appearances and Down has the least.
The Ferguson Archive is the result of a project that the GAA embarked upon late last year to provide an updated results and statistics archive for Gaelic games. Drawing upon the work of numerous individuals across the country who have preserved records on the Association’s behalf throughout its history at local and national level, the statistics project was given a significant boost when it received the co-operation of Sligo’s Pádraig Ferguson who, since the 1980s, has been assembling his GAA statistics database and has been making his work known on the GAA Lore platform. It’s the intention of the GAA to house the archive on its soon to be redeveloped website later this year.
The archive also tells us that former Mayo star Andy Moran ranks at sixth in the list of all-time championship appearances, one short of fifth-placed Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper of Kerry but 27 games short of former Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton whose 111 appearances is 22 more than second on the list, Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh. Incredibly, the three Ó Sé brothers from Kerry, Tomás, Marc and Darragh, rank third, fourth and seventh respectively. But two other lists are headed by a Mayo footballer – and a current one at that. It’s common knowledge at this stage, of course, that no player in the history of the senior inter-county football championship has scored as much as Cillian O’Connor, however, what is also confirmed by the Ferguson Archive is that the Ballintubber maestro has also scored more goals than any other player to have gone before, his 30 squeezing the Kerry pair of Mikey Sheehy (29) and Colm Cooper (23) into second and third place respectively.
But back to those 71 men who have worn the Green and Red jersey since Horan’s second coming in 2019. There’s an irony surely that for all the players used, supporters have never been as unsure heading into any championship match over the course of the past four seasons as to what the starting Mayo 15 will be for Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Round 1 Qualifier against Monaghan. So how about a little quiz instead?
Take a look at the full list of 71 players below and see then how you fare with the following questions.
1. Who are the only two players on the list to have played championship football for Mayo but not National League?
2. Who scored a goal on his National League debut in 2019 and appeared in six of Mayo’s first seven games that year, but has played no further matches since?
3. In 2019, who scored on both his league and championship debuts, and against Kerry in both Croke Park and Killarney, made a total of eleven appearances that year but has not featured for Mayo since?
4. This All-Ireland U21 winner replaced Paddy Durcan, Chris Barrett, Stephen Coen, Keith Higgins and Colm Boyle in five consecutive championship games in 2019 but has never been handed a championship start by James Horan. Who is he?
5. What Westport player made his only senior appearance for Mayo against Cavan in the 2019 NFL?
6. What Westport player made his only senior appearance for Mayo against Westmeath in the 2021 NFL?
7. What two clubs between them have had sixteen players make appearances for Mayo since 2019?
8. At 27 out of 71, clubs from the West division have provided the most players to the Mayo senior football panel. What division has provided the least?
9. What is the last club to have won the Mayo SFC that currently has no player on the Mayo senior panel?
10. Of the top six scorers in the 2021 Mayo SFC, how many are in this year’s Mayo senior football panel?
11. How many clubs are represented among the 71 players who have played for Mayo since 2019?
Mayo players 2019-2022:
(*Denotes they appeared in FBD League only. The year is in brackets)
1. Chris Barrett (Belmullet) 2. Fergal Boland (Aghamore) 3. Gary Boylan (Belmullet)* (2020)
4. Colm Boyle (Davitts) 5. Rory Brickenden (Westport) 6. Rory Byrne (Ballina)
7. Ger Cafferkey (Ballina) 8. Sam Callinan (Ballina) 9. Jack Carney (Kilmeena)
10. James Carr (Ardagh) 11. David Clarke (Ballina) 12. Darren Coen (Holly/Carra)
13. Stephen Coen (Holly/Carra) 14. Tommy Conroy (The Neale) 15. Jack Coyne (Ballyhaunis)
16. Caolan Crowe (Garrymore)* (2019) 17. Conor Diskin (Claremorris) 18. Jason Doherty (Burrishoole)
19. Ben Doyle (Westport) 20. David Drake (Ballaghaderreen) 21. Fionan Duffy (Crossmolina)* (2022)
22. James Durcan (Castlebar) 23. Paddy Durcan (Castlebar) 24. Jordan Flynn (Crossmolina)
25. Jason Gibbons (Ballintubber) 26. Brendan Harrison (Aghamore) 27. Justin Healy (Cill Chomain)* (2022)
28. Paddy Heneghan (Castlebar)* (2022) 29. Robbie Hennelly (Breaffy) 30. Enda Hession (Garrymore)
31. Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis) 32. Frank Irwin (Ballina) 33. Liam Irwin (Breaffy)* (2020)
34. Ruairi Keane (Mayo Gaels)* (2022) 35. Lee Keegan (Westport) 36. James Kelly (Belmullet)* (2019)
37. David Kenny (Aghamore)* (2020) 38. Conor Loftus (Crossmolina) 39. Jack Mahon (Charlestown)* (2022)
40. Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen) 41. Colm Moran (Westport) 42. Mark Moran (Westport)
43. Oisin Mullin (Kilmaine) 44. Mikey Murray (Ballina) 45. David McBrien (Ballaghaderreen)
46. James McCormack (Claremorris) 47. Fionn McDonagh (Westport) 48. Darren McHale (Knockmore)
49. Donnacha McHugh (Castlebar) 50. Eoghan McLaughlin (Westport) 51. Oisin McLaughlin (Westport)* (2019)
52. Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore) 53. Aiden Orme (Knockmore) 54. Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber)
55. Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber) 56. Eoin O’Donoghue (Belmullet) 57. Ryan O’Donoghue (Belmullet)
58. Padraig O’Hora (Ballina) 59. Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy) 60. Conor O’Shea (Breaffy)
61. Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy) 62. Tom Parsons (Charlestown) 63. Michael Plunkett (Ballintubber)
64. Brian Reape (Moy Davitts) 65. Evan Regan (Ballina) 66. Matthew Ruane (Breaffy)
67. James Stretton (Claremorris)* (2020) 68. Paul Towey (Charlestown) 69. Ciaran Treacy (Ballina)
70. Donal Vaughan (Castlebar) 71. Bryan Walsh (Ballintubber)
1. Jack Coyne (v Leitrim 2021) and Mikey Murray (v Down and Armagh 2019).
2. Brian Reape (Moy Davitts).
3. Ciaran Treacy (Ballina Stephenites).
4. Eoin O’Donoghue (Belmullet).
5. Colm Moran.
6. Ben Doyle.
7. Westport and Ballina Stephenites (eight apiece).
8. South Mayo (11 players). The contributions of the other divisions were East Mayo (12), North Mayo (21) and West Mayo (27).
9. Ballycastle (1939).
10. 2 – Ryan O’Donoghue (Belmullet) and Fergal Boland (Aghamore). O’Donoghue was joint top scorer with Peter Naughton (Knockmore) followed by Boland in third, Stephen O’Malley (Ballintubber) fourth, Ultan Corrigan (Kiltane) fifth and James Shaughnessy (Claremorris) sixth.