It has seemed like an eternity since our last competitive fixture – in sporting terms, six months is an eternity – but here we are at last, about to face Derry in our opening NFL fixture up at Celtic Park this evening. This was where it all ended for us last July and now it’s where we start off in pursuit of glory once more. Another year of following the Green and Red beckons.
We’re unlikely to see (or, in my case, hear – the closest I’ll get to the game is listening to it from here in Dublin on Midwest over the internet) too much in the way of glory this evening. Indeed, it would come as a surprise to all the pundits I’ve come across, i.e. those in the Indo, the Times (sub required), RTE and Hogan Stand, were we to come away from the game with anything other than a defeat. Even the bookies call it Derry’s way, albeit making them only slight (5/6) favourites over the 70 minutes.
Personally, I’m not too bothered about how we fare in this league campaign, providing the games are used to undertake the experiments that are undoubtedly needed to find a settled championship side. Over the past few years, we’ve done well in the league but this good Spring form hasn’t always helped us in the Summer. This was particularly so last year, when by April we had more or less a settled team. We paid for this dearly later on as the experimentation that should have been happening in the league instead took place in the form of running repairs in the qualifiers, with predictable results.
In that respect, some of Johnno’s picks for tonight’s match represent worthy experimentation and so are welcome. I’d place the entire half-back line selection, those of Seamus O Shea at midfield and Mickey Mullins at left-half forward, as well as the recalls of Conor Moran and James Gill in that category (at a push, Austie’s selection at full-forward could also be said to have merit). Other choices are less understandable, such as BJ and Liam O’Malley in the full-back line and Peadar Gardiner in midfield, though one hopes that these picks – especially the latter’s – are more to do with who is available to play tonight. The decision not to try out some more new blood in the forwards also seems unduly cautious for a match we’re widely expected to lose.
I’m not so sure we will lose but, then again, I’m not all that confident we’ll win either. With home advantage on a raw night at the start of February, Derry have to be favourites, which, as I’ve already evidenced above, they are. Whatever the outcome, it’s great to have the real action back once more. Get to it, lads!