Although we’re heading into Sunday’s NFL clash with Dublin aiming for a three-in-a-row over them, our fifty-year record against them is one where they clearly enough come out on top. In that half-century span, we’ve met them a total of 19 times, with the matches in question having taken place between 1971 and 2007. Prior to that 1971 NFL semi-final clash, we didn’t meet them again until we clashed at the same stage of the league way back in 1958 but that’s just outside the time horizon I’m using here and so it gives me a convenient excuse to ignore the three-point loss we suffered to them in that one.
Of those 19 meetings, we’ve won seven, drawn two and lost the remaining ten on an aggregate score of 25-192 to them versus 17-170 to us, which makes it a 46-point margin in their favour. So while we may be confident of downing their colours at the showgrounds on Sunday, it’s fair to conclude, I think, that they’ll still have the edge on us in terms of that aggregate score by the time the final whistle is sounded, regardless of what the final score is on Sunday.
Three of our meetings with them in the last fifty years occurred in the championship: the two 1985 semi-final matches and that never-to-be-forgotten one-point win we secured over them, courtesy of this never-to-be-forgotten winning point from Super Mac, at the same penultimate stage in 2006. That makes it one win, one draw and one loss from our championship encounters with them over the period.
The remaining sixteen clashes have come in the league and here we’ve won six, drawn one and lost nine. We’ve played them seven times at home in the league and, of that lot, we’ve won three, drawn one and lost three. But we have, it should be noted, won our only previous league clash in Ballina: that was a Division 2 match late in 1984 where we had three points to spare over that year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists. The same result this coming Sunday would do just nicely, I think.
Here’s the full list:
Our recent record against them is, as you can see, a decent enough one. Including the day we met and beat them in 2004 – on a day when Austie put in a mercurial performance, notching seven points as we beat them out the gate at McHale Park – we’ve won three and lost two but those two losses occurred up in Parnell park under the lights (in 2005 and 2006). Not only have we won the two home league games we’ve played against them this decade, on both occasions they failed to score in the second half so, if you see some of the visiting support heading for the exits at half-time on Sunday, you’ll know why.
Our most recent clash against them was, of course, that helter-skelter encounter on Fool’s Day in 2007. The weather was only gorgeous that day and the crowd was a bumper one, easily as big as the attendance recorded at our qualifier clash with Cavan at the same venue three months after that. I remember looking over towards the Bacon Factory End shortly before throw-in and the crowds were still streaming in at that stage. They were destined to see what turned out to be a distinctly odd game of football: they played us off the pitch in the first half and led by five at the break but, following Conal Keaney’s sending-off just after the restart, we laid siege to their posts for virtually all of the second half. Amidst a welter of wides for us and Diarmuid Connolly’s penalty miss for them, we finally did enough to claim a one-point win and, with it, a place in the NFL semi-finals. It all seems like a long time ago now: after all, we still believed in The Johnno Effect back then …