Right, time to get the game faces on again with our first proper championship test – and a proper one it sure is – awaiting us in Hyde Park this afternoon. I know that, strictly speaking, this is Game 2 for us in the 2014 championship but it’s the first occasion this year in which our Connacht title is being laid squarely on the line and so it’s obviously the biggest football match we’ve been involved in since last year’s All-Ireland final.
It is, then, an occasion to savour and I’m itching to get on the road and head West, which I’ll be doing – along with the little lad (on loan to us for shouting purposes today) and The Brother – very shortly. More than that, though, I’m eagerly awaiting throw-in at Hyde Park and seeing the contest that’s set to unfold once the match is underway.
There’s no denying that this has the potential to be a tricky one for us. Roscommon are certainly a team on the up, with a number of fine footballers in their ranks, a canny manager who has made good progress with the county since he took over at the end of 2012 and the fair wind of a positive League campaign behind them. Home advantage won’t hurt them tomorrow either, even if our record in their backyard is a good one.
It’s easy enough to sketch out two very different scenarios for this encounter. The first sees us tear into them, either in the manner we did against Galway in Salthill last year or else by punishing with a fusillade of points the way their expected blanket defence approach invites us onto them. Such a scenario sees us winning with a good bit to spare.
An alternative vision is one akin to what happened to Donegal in last year’s Ulster final, with the Rossies rocking us back on our arses early on and sucking us into a real dogfight. Although James Horan’s charges have shown more than once that they have the ability to navigate their way through tricky waters (last year’s All-Ireland semi-final being the most recent example), the fear under this scenario would be that we revert to the kind of panic stations that occurred in the League semi-final against Derry, enabling the home team to secure a long overdue championship win over us. A more rosy variant of this scenario would see us escape with a narrow, nervy win.
On balance, I’d be confident enough that our lads will rise fully to whatever challenge is put in front of them today. Roscommon have undoubtedly improved since our last championship meeting at the same stage of the Connacht championship last year but I’d argue that, concerns about mental fatigue notwithstanding, we have too. This team now has a wealth of big game experience and while our repeated inability to seal the deal at national level raises justifiable questions about just how good we really are, I’d be more than a bit surprised if we didn’t have enough to come out on top today and so book our place in the Connacht final for the fourth year in a row.
Okay, time to get to it. Safe travelling to everyone heading to Hyde Park and here’s to an afternoon of happy hunting there. Up Mayo!