So another game day has arrived for us in this scorching hot summer we’re having. This evening’s Round 3 qualifier is our fourth match of this championship campaign, our third in four weekends. Nobody needs telling what the venue is for this one – it’s St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge where Kildare provide the opposition and where Meath’s David Gough is the ref. He’ll throw in the ball there at 7pm this evening and the game will also be broadcast live on TV by Sky Sports.
There’s been so much brouhaha surrounding this fixture that the match itself has become a bit lost in the process. It’s a crunch one, of course, for both counties as only one of them gets to progress to the next round while, for the other, the 2018 inter-county season will be over. With everything on the line we can expect the players from both teams to give their all to help ensure that it’s their county that is back in the draw on Monday morning.
We’re favourites to win and, you’d have to say, deservedly so. Our form this year hasn’t been stellar – though our blistering finish against Tipperary last weekend showed we still have the capability to blow teams away – but Kildare’s has been far worse. One of only two wins we achieved in Division One this spring came at Kildare’s expense, a match also played in Newbridge, but while we snatched top tier survival at the death up in Ballybofey Kildare lost all seven of their League matches, falling back down to Division Two after just a single year.
It’s hard to know what to make of their summer form. The loss to Carlow must, for them, have been a crushing blow and it wouldn’t have been the biggest shock of the championship had they folded the tent after that in Round 1 of the qualifiers. To their credit, however, they didn’t and the wins recorded over Derry in Owenbeg and Longford in Pearse Park will have given them a renewed sense of self-belief.
From our perspective, we need to approach this test with some caution. Kildare have decent ball players, both out the field and in the inside line, and with the height around the middle that we’re now shorn of we need to have a well-worked plan in terms of how we get at them. Which I’ve no doubt we will.
The conditions will also be a factor in this evening’s match but today’s slightly cooler temperatures will surely be welcomed by both teams. Stamina will still be key and, if the Tipp match is anything to go by, it’s here that we could have the decisive edge on them.
With the venue packed out and all but a few hundred punters standing up on the terraces, the occasion is sure to have an atmospheric feel about it. It’s also an event to which we need to bring our numerical advantage to bear, in terms of noise and colour. Wear a hat, wear the green and red, bring a flag and wave it at every opportunity, shout, roar and keep it up right to the end. Thousands of Mayo fans would, had it been fixed for another venue, have been at the game this evening so shout for them as well.
Many of those fans are, for logistical reasons, too far away to take advantage of any tickets that become available late in the day. But that’s not the case of those who live closer to the venue. There are, for sure, Mayo fans based in Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare, Meath, Laois, Louth, Offaly and Tipperary (have I missed any county off that list?) who’d leap at the chance to go and, by dint of the shorter journey time involved, could easily do so.
So, don’t let that unused ticket you have go to waste. If you have any friends and relations based up this side of the country make sure to check to see if they’re sorted. Or fire up details here. Do what you can to get those tickets into the right hands. Make sure we get as many Mayo supporters into the game as we can.
You’ll need to sort out the logistics of swapping tickets yourselves, as I’m on the road shortly myself. But sure that’s exactly what you’ve been doing on here and elsewhere for the last 24 hours.
As I explained yesterday, while this one should have involved a facile jaunt down the M7 to get to the game, instead I’m spending most of the day on the road criss-crossing the country. But at least this means that later today I’ll be approaching the game from the same direction as the hordes from the West. Heading east to see what these Lilies are made of, heading to Newbridge for what we hope and expect will be the win that gets us into the draw for Round 4.
Safe travelling all the rest of you who are on the road today. See you on the terrace for some serious shouting later on. Here we go again. Up Mayo.