A few thoughts on the draw

It really is great to be back thinking ahead to football games once again. Proper matches, with plenty at stake, even if we’re all going to have to watch the action on TV. At least there will be action to watch and matches to talk about.

Yesterday evening’s Connacht SFC draw started all the talk, as we now have a clear view of the potential road that lies ahead for us in this summer’s defence of the JJ Nestor Cup. It’s worth, then, ruminating a bit on the draw and what it means for us.

The first thing to be said, of course, is that it’s a great draw from our point of view. We were well overdue a draw that kept us apart from both Galway and Roscommon so for it to happen at last was a surprise and a pleasant one at that.

This is all the more so in light of the fact that this year’s Championship is another straight knockout one. Both Galway and Roscommon know that their summer could be a very short one and so both will approach their semi-final meeting with trepidation.

We, on the other hand, can have reasonable expectations about playing three matches in Connacht this summer. Sligo in Markievicz Park isn’t without its dangers but it’s a game we’ll be hotly fancied to win. Whoever does emerge from under Ben Bulben’s head with the spoils will, of course, be strong favourites to take Leitrim and advance to the provincial decider.

This route to the final offers the opportunity to build a bit of momentum, which a crucial ingredient for advancement in a knockout competition. Regardless of who we’d be up against in the Connacht final, if we come into that game with two good wins under our belts we’ll come into it flying.

This is important too in terms of the lifecycle of this team. James blooded loads of players last year and he recently name-checked a fair few more who could come into the reckoning this year. With the glut of retirements back in January, this year’s panel will be a much-altered one and a fair few starting places will be up for grabs. The more games we can get to help fix on a settled fifteen, the better.

That, in turn, lends added weight to the constricted National League campaign that gets underway in less than a month from now. Winning is a habit and it would be ideal for us to come into the Championship off the back of a positive run of matches in the League.

You could mount a reasonably credible argument that the calibre of opposition we’ll face leading into a putative Connacht final would hurt us once we got there. Maybe it would. But then again maybe it wouldn’t.

Given the strange world we inhabit, I’m not sure it makes a blind bit of difference who we’re up against in this year’s League. Would it help us prep better for Championship if we had the likes of, say, Donegal, Tyrone and the Dubs laying into us before then in the League? I’m not convinced it would.

It’s arguably far better for us to be able to use the League as a springboard into the summer campaign, thus enabling us to go into the opening game against Sligo humming nicely. We’ll need to be in good fettle then too. Tony McEntee is no mug – his coaching record is a strong one and he knows plenty about us. He’ll look to make it very hard for us to get past the Yeats County.

But, hey, the feeling will be mutual. We’ll be looking to hit them with everything and do the same to Leitrim and whoever we’d then meet in the final. Not, of course, forgetting that this year the Connacht champions will meet the champions of Leinster in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Now, though, I really am jumping too far ahead. But that’s what happens when your thoughts get fixed on matches that are coming up, all the more so in these pandemic times when we really need something other than Covid to focus on.

So, then, summing it all up yesterday’s draw was an ideal one from our point of view. Now it’s up to us to make the most of the opportunities it affords us for advancement in this year’s Championship.

12 thoughts on “A few thoughts on the draw

  1. I think that a very relevant factor is that this Mayo team, and all Mayo teams since that scare in Ruislip 2011, have a totally different approach to Mayo teams up till then. Whatever James Horan has brought to the mix the days of taking teams for granted, which seemed to cause so much trouble in the past, seem to be over. Whether they ever return God knows but not, I think under Horan. I also believe that he has infused this attitude deeply into the team and that the veterans will pass it on to the young fellows coming up. Maybe a disaster of a future manager might upset things but I think such a manager would get the order of the boot from the players very quickly. And quite right too.
    On another note can anybody tell me if Mayo GAA Lotto is still running. I tried to renew my ten week sub tonight but could find no link on the Official Mayo website. And I just realised that I have not been getting the usual weekly reminders about it for the past while either.

  2. Willie were we not first out of the ‘hat’ on the Sligo draw thus giving us home advantage?

  3. The draw we have is as good as it gets. The lads are well used to the intensity levels they need to get up to by now and are well able to be laying into each other in A v B games. Hopefully a few lads will get back from injury and have a good run at it this year!

  4. Citog,
    Where have you been all these years? Connacht have been operating a home and away championship since I was a gossoon, and for long before. Incidentally my first championship match was in Charlestown in 1962, a drawn game [which we should have won, leading by six points with five or six mins to go] and we lost the replay played in Markievicz.

  5. The league would be an ideal time to introduce a new goalie, a full back and try out Mullin at midfield. These are the areas that we are weak in with the retirement
    of Clarke and Barrett. If JH gets this right we should be back in division 1 in 2022. That would set us up nicely for a crack at an AI semi final against the Dubs.

  6. Agree with all of this really.
    The more games the team gets this year, the better. I wouldn’t quite say it’s transitioning, the bulk of that was done last year.
    I do think Mullin will be moved away from full back, though who is going to fit into the back line I’m not sure. It will also be interesting to see what they do with midfield and goalkeeper, though I do think Hennelly will probably hold his position for this year.
    All to play for. Do think Division Two will be no bad thing this year but it is important they get out of it also.
    Looking forward to seeing it all play out!

  7. So the plan is looking something like this. We should breeze through Div 2 games while experimenting with younger, inexperienced players, that should be the stars of the future in no time at all. Then once promotion is safely in the bag, we can ponce around Connacht in waiting for the Leinster champions to stick their heads out.
    My personal opinion is that the league could be tricky this year. More so than many people are willing to admit. Galway will feature this year and I believe they will progress to the final. They have invested heavily in the last year, and this is payback time. Jimmy could be winning matches at a town near you soon. I fancy Monaghan in Ulster this year though I am not sure why.

  8. Just be careful of Down in first league game, should beat Westmeath but Meath will be no easy one either.

  9. I wonder will James decide to try and blow a few of these teams in the league away with attack minded play like Tipp game last year. Could be risky and get ambushed by Down or Meath but probably not both but could build confidence like like 2013 and 2014 tactics.
    On Mullen, the move to midfield is a year or more too soon as we have to plug the full back slot, if Harrison returns will he be in the form of previous years? I’d select Mullen as full back for now, he’ll hopefully be a great option in midfield in the years ahead if we keep him on home soil.

  10. Don’t think Mullin is tall enough for midfield long term. It’s one thing being able to win kickouts over Con O’Callaghan, who is barely 6 foot. Completely different up against the likes of Fenton, Tom Flynn, David Moran etc.

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