Morning has broken – and another perfect summer’s one it is over here – on a day where, for the sixth successive year, the county team takes the field aiming for a place in the All-Ireland football final. The last two years the game’s two biggest powers barred our path to the September decider but this time we’re strong favourites going into the semi-final as we get ready to do battle with championship 2016 surprise packets Tipperary.
It’s a battle that, sadly, I’ll be following from afar today. Instead of being in the thick of it at the cauldron that is Croke Park on a day like this, I’ll be watching on from over here, looking at the action on Sky over an iPad. Does this all feel more than a bit weird? Too right it does but there’s nothing I can do about it now.
By the sounds of it, though, such is the size of the likely turnout from the county at HQ today I won’t be missed. The players have more than once this year referenced the boost the strong support they get from the stands gives them and they’re sure to feel this even more when they run out on the sacred turf this afternoon.
Across the country, Tipp will, understandably, attract widespread neutral support today as the plucky underdog. Inside Croke Park is, however, where this contest will be decided and so it’s all the more important that our vocal support makes it feel like a home game for us.
And the lads should feel at home on the big stage at HQ. They’re used to big days like this and they’ve proved repeatedly in recent years that they thrive in the pressure-cooker environment that is the business end of the championship.
That edge should ensure it’s the players in Green and Red that set the tempo in this contest. The job today will be far easier done if the lads settle into their task right from the throw-in and set about asking the most searching of questions of their opponents.
While Tipp have every right to expect nothing but the height of respect from us, they should know – and hopefully they’ll find out in short order – what cost this entails. We need to hit them with everything we’ve got and only let up when we’re 100% sure the result is in the bag.
There’s a job to be done today (and, yes, I do feel guilty not being there to add my puny tuppence-worth of hoarse-throated shouting to the cause) and I’ve every hope we’ll see this task carried out in the manner that an All-Ireland semi-final demands. The prize of a place in the final is there for us to grasp and now we’ve got to get out there and do this. Best of luck to the lads today and safe travelling all. Up Mayo!