In a team full of surprises, Leitrim manager Brendan Guckian will hand Connacht Championship debuts to five players next Sunday against London in Ruislip.
Gortletteragh’s Jack Heslin, Fenagh St. Caillin’s Ryan O’Rourke, Mohill’s Keith Beirne, Drumreilly’s Conor Gaffney and Melvin Gaels’ Darragh Rooney will all make their Connacht Championship debuts in the forward line in the team announced at noon on Thursday.
O’Rourke did feature for 10 minutes in last year’s All-Ireland Qualifier against Sligo but Sunday’s team selection represents a major injection of youth with Heslin, O’Rourke, Beirne and Rooney all members of this year’s U21 team.
Rooney’s return came after he missed this year’s U21 Championship outing against Galway following a serious shoulder injury in a Hastings Cup tie against Offaly in January. However, the Melvin Gaels clubman has been in good form for the Kinlough side in recent weeks.
St. Mary’s Micheal McWeeney, Mohill’s Ronan Gallagher will make their first starts of the year along with Heslin, Gaffney and Rooney.
The team will be captained from centre-back by Fenagh St. Caillin’s Donal Wrynn while Shane Moran will be joined by Bornacoola’s Damian Moran in the middle of the park.
The team selection also means there is no place in the starting line-up for Vice-Captain Wayne McKeon, 2016 Captain Gary Reynolds as well as Intermediate Club Player of the Year Dean McGovern.
Naturally, there will be speculation that there will be changes to the starting line-up before throw-in next Sunday but manager Brendan Guckian has consistently preached about giving youth its chance as he told the Observer ahead of the game “The young guys are responding well, they are fearless which is what I like about them, they’ll go at it.
“Which is a great attitude and going back to the U21 game against Galway, the first half was obviously very disappointing but the way they played in the second half, they showed that they can compete with anybody on their day.
“So you’d be hoping that there would definitely be a few involved on the first day of the championship.”
The full Leitrim team and substitutes for Sunday’s outing against London is as follows:
1 Brendan Flynn (Leitrim Gaels)
2 Michael McWeeney (St. Mary’s Kiltoghert)
3 Ronan Gallagher (Mohill)
4 Paddy Maguire (Glencar/Manorhamilton)
5 James Rooney (Glencar/Manorhamilton)
6 Donal Wrynn (Capt) (Fenagh St. Caillin’s)
7 Oisín Madden (Mohill)
8 Shane Moran (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s)
9 Damien Moran (Bornacoola)
10 Jack Heslin (Gortletteragh)
11 Brendan Gallagher (Lucan Sarsfields)
12 Ryan O’Rourke (Fenagh St. Caillin’s)
13 Keith Beirne (Mohill)
14 Conor Gaffney (Drumreilly)
15 Darragh Rooney (Melvin Gaels)
16 Philip Farrelly (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s)
17 Matthew Murphy (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s)
18 Noel Plunkett (Aughawillan)
19 Alan Armstrong (Mohill)
20 Gary Reynolds (Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Rua)
21 Wayne McKeon (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s)
22 Gary Plunkett (Aughawillan)
23 Ronan Kennedy (Mohill)
24 Dean McGovern (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s)
25 James Mitchell (Mohill)
26 Conor Cullen (Aughnasheelin)