After a two-week break, it’s back once more into one-slip-and-you’re-gone territory for us today. Our Round 4A qualifier game against Cork takes place early this evening at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick (throw-in 5pm) where Down’s Ciaran Branagan is the man with the whistle.
This is a game with a significant difference for me, as, for the third year running, I’m missing a knockout championship match in which the county is involved. It’s always a weird experience for me when this occurs and today will surely be too but I will be watching the game from afar. Although my shouts won’t, sadly, carry as far as Limerick I’ll be roaring them on too.
As, no doubt, will the huge contingent from the county who make their way to the Gaelic Grounds today. It’s a venue that’s got a certain hold over us, given 2014 and all that, but a win today would go a long way towards exorcising the mental pain of what befell us back then.
This is a game we should win but, as ever with us, such an assertion has to be conditioned with a rider about the need for us to play at the maximum of our abilities. Cork are in a dip as a footballing force but they’re still Cork and their team is one that comprises loads of footballing talent.
That makes them a hugely dangerous opponent for us, a team that will cause us enormous difficulties if we fail to control the contest right from the start. While the Derry and Clare games showed our ability to dig out results after slow starts, we’ll find ourselves in serious bother today if we go down the same route.
With a return to Croke Park next weekend for an All-Ireland quarter-final the prize for the winners, I’m expecting our big-game experience – and the upward curve in our form, as evidenced by the second half performance against Clare – will stand greatly to us today. This team has answered so many tough questions down the years, getting to at least the semi-final stage every year since 2011, and I believe we’ll have the answers once again today.
As supporters, you all know the important role you need to play in the proceedings at the Gaelic Grounds this evening. The enormous backing the team enjoys from its fans helped, for sure, in getting us over the line against both Derry and Clare. I’m sure the sound of that wonderful support will come across loud and clear over the GAA GO stream I’ll be using to follow the action from home today.
I’ll be back later on with a (short) piece on the game and will stick up the usual MOTM poll soon after the final whistle sounds at Limerick. I won’t, though, be doing a post-match audio report – some things only work when you’re fully in the moment.
Safe travels to everyone on the road to Limerick today. Happy hunting at the Gaelic Grounds this evening. Can we do this? For sure, we can. Up Mayo!