Game day – it all starts here

In normal times our first competitive match of the year would be played in deep winter, before January was over. But these aren’t normal times and so instead it’s the middle of May when this year’s National League gets underway.

Regardless of the timing, though, it’s great to have the football – and the hurling and the camogie – back once more. Sport is part of what makes so many of us tick and its return is an important milestone as we seek to rediscover some kind of normality on the road to what will hopefully be a post-Covid world.

The scars from the pandemic are visible in so much of what we do – and cannot do – and the GAA fixtures calendar is no different. This is the League but not as we know it, a truncated warmer-upper campaign that now dovetails into the straight knockout Championship that follows immediately afterwards.

It’s not for nothing, then, that James Horan said some weeks ago that there would be a ‘shotgun start’ to this year’s action. He’s right – every team will seek to come roaring out of the traps today, all with the aim of building precious momentum to carry them through this shortened League and onto the more significant challenges facing them straight away after that.

So it’s a very different kind of NFL Round 1 day today. We’ve another significant layer of difference to cope with too, of course, as we’re operating in Division Two of the competition this year, outside of the top tier for the first time in 24 years.

This will mean less focus on us over the next few weeks and there’ll be less national interest on us too, unless, of course, we find the going hard in Division Two North. But that stuff is only noise in any event so James and his players will want to keep concentrated on the matches that are there to be played and to be won.

Down provide the year’s first challenge for us this afternoon at MacHale Park (throw-in 2pm) and a potentially tricky one it is too. We’ve often found – in particular in more recent times – Ulster counties tough to deal with in the League and those difficulties are compounded when we play Northern teams on home turf, where our recent record is nothing short of abysmal.

So the Mourne County will travel to Castlebar today with plenty of confidence about their ability to make life tough for us. A win for them would represent a major scalp – when a so-called ‘big’ team slips, everyone relishes a cut off them – so if we’re to win today it’s a win we’re going to have to earn.

I think, though, with the team we’ve picked we’re well set to make a positive start to the year. Eleven of today’s starting fifteen were on the field at some point in last year’s All-Ireland final and although the bench details aren’t yet available you’d have to think we’ve a few strong performers in there too to give us the required lift to get us over the line today.

You have to go as far back as Round 7 of the 2019 campaign for the last time we won a League game at MacHale Park. But get this – our opponents that March day were Monaghan and we emerged then from a high-scoring encounter to book our place in a Division One final we so memorably won.

It would mark a perfect start to 2021 for us if we could bookend that win over an Ulster county with another one today. That’s got to be the aim and the best of luck to James and the lads – especially debutants Enda Hession and Rory Brickenden – in their endeavours today.

A quick mention for the two other Mayo teams who are also in action at 2pm this afternoon. Both the hurlers and the camogie team face League encounters against Roscommon, the former at Hyde Park and the latter at Ballyforan, and both matches are being streamed for free. The link for the hurling match is here and the one for the camogie game is here. Happy hunting to both of them in their respective battles against the Rossies.

Back later on with reports on the day’s action, including the first MOTM poll of the year. Yes, it’s good to have all this match-day fun back again. Up Mayo!

56 thoughts on “Game day – it all starts here

  1. Great podcast. Liked that witty post heading , Download, Willie Joe.

    I hope Mayo are alert to Down’s likely eagerness. Sometimes Mayo look surprised when teams come at them full on. We seem slow to realise that others take us seriously, either because we’ve handed them beatings, or because we’re box office. Marty Clarke put his finger on some of this during the podcast. Paddy Tally seems the wrong fit for Down, but they are likely to have a lot of pacey, eager, youngsters, who will want to impress.

  2. Irrespective of how the Down team fare in Div 2 I believe that Paddy Tally and his tactics are the wrong path for Down. Down are, and always have been a footballing county. In 2019 it was sad to watch Down players track back to defend space when their natural footballing instincts would be to push forward and win the game. Watched a similar setup in Pearce Stadium on TV for the last Connacht Final v Galway where JMcG’s handy work was clearly visible.

  3. I’m nervous about this one . He is often criticised but I think Stephen Coen’s absence along with all the retirements and O Shea’s injury could be sorely felt. He is a quiet leader at the back. I hope we do enough. The bench will be interesting especially when 7 subs can be used. I hope that doesn’t continue in the championship or it hands the Dubs another advantage

    All that said I think we will still win by a couple of points 😀

  4. It’s raining out, wife and kid are away and GAAGO account is setup.
    A full day of gaa awaits, mayo down up first followed by kerry v Galway and then a humdinger between Tyrone and donegal.

    Great to have it back
    Beats the premiership every day

  5. Some of ye should know better than to listen to Joe brolly.
    Tally is an excellent modern progressive coach, I have played under him. He doesn’t preach negativity

  6. I’ve bought the €25 pass on GAAGO. Trying to click on an old match or documentary to see can I connect phone to TV and its saying can’t be played in this location. I presume the match will be OK though?

  7. You’re 100pc right Willie Joe, our abysmal home record is a disgrace!
    James Horan has reversed our poor Connacht Championship record and now he needs to build ‘Fort McHale’.
    Our thousands of young players need this kind of battle hardiness and pride in our home patch.
    Our quest for Sam should continue but the strength of the foundation gives a confidence, power, and momentum to that challenge.
    Last year we saw a number of very good new players come through but other than winning the Connacht title back, we didn’t show the kind of steel in body or mind to worry the Dubs in the last 15 minutes of the Final.
    It starts with bossing every opposition that comes to Castlebar and putting them away in the shadow of the big stand! Start today with Down.

  8. You will need a laptop to connect to a tv for GAAGO, they don’t have a function that allows you to cast to tv from phone. Considering the price you would expect this functionality, sadly, like many gaa things, it is a money maker providing the bare minimum rather than a solid platform. Anyway, looking forward to the match, be interesting to see how the team performs after all the retirements.

  9. Subs lists from the match programme:

    16. Rory Byrne
    17. Jack Coyne
    18. Colm Boyle
    19. Fergal Boland
    20. James McCormack
    21. Eoghan McLaughlin
    22. Stephen Coen
    23. Aidan Orme
    24. Conor Loftus
    25. Bryan Walsh
    26. Darren Coen

  10. Cloud9. Unfortunately it not up to JH to build Fort McHale as you put it. In my opinion it’s up to you and all those who support the Mayo team to help build the fort. The project is called the wall and when you make a contribution, tell your friends why you made a contribution.

  11. I’m just happy to have Football back on the TV again. It felt like Christmas waking up this morning, with a glut of action on over the weekend.

    Best of luck against Down, can’t see you needing it, should have way to much for them.

    Galway Kerry game should be good too. Kingdom I reckon will hammer them.

  12. Gerard, you can cast to tv using GAAGO app, doing just that now myself and the quality is very good. Maybe do the homework before posting negative comments about the service

  13. Gaa go seems great value, picture quality good at the moment,
    Typical first match back, few errors and some good play, Down starting to play defensively

  14. That’s a disgraceful comment, Eamon Ó Corcora, and posted during a match too. That’s you in moderation for your troubles, how dare you abuse the comment facility in that way.

  15. Going well at half time, keeping the scoreboard moving. Could have another goal or 2. Is GAA GO ever going to come back on. No half time analysis.
    Like the look of Tommy C and ROD.

  16. Last 20 mins is far from enjoyable. Really sloppy by Mayo. Horan will be buckin

  17. Tommy Conroy is a fine player, we are certainly looking to kick pass.
    It is hard to judge where we really are as Down were poor but plenty of positives, but Horan will have plenty to work on over the next few weeks as well. Job done overall.

  18. We looked a bit suspect several times when Down ran at our defence. They had 3 if not 4 decent goal chances that a better team would have netted.

    A nice result for us. Some solid performances but as many rusty.

  19. Mayonaze, there was heavy rain during that period which needs to be taken into account. Overall a good performance with many positives, it’s not often we start a league in that fashion. Plenty to work on but that’s a good thing, Id say Horan is happy enough. Tommy Conroy is a serious talent and Ryan had a very good game. It’s been a long time since we have had two corner forwards of that quality and movement.

  20. Mixed bag but good outing. The weather certainly didn’t help. Lots to be positive about but some players looked rusty. Far from best 15 out there. Very happy with Tommy C, the standout forward. Matthew Ruane usual mix of good runs and scores with running down cul de sacs. Hennelly a few poor kickouts in 1st half. Ryan OD and especially Oisin Mullen looked good too. Down were very poor and left quite a few scores behind. Good to get a decent scoreline up and win in the bag.

  21. Interesting that Cillian played a wee bit deeper and allowed the two speedsters do the damage. Ryan is a great man for creating chances and drawing frees, but his finishing today was fantastic. Tommy of course was at his best and looks the business. The two of them linked up very well together and its pretty positive now looking forward. A lot of bodies around the middle third and plenty of running back and fourth which suits us, we won some good ball at times, but given a lot of youth there was a lot errors also. Working progress in Defence, but glad to see various names get opportunities, Mullin has the confidence to mark in front and I’m starting to like the look of him at Full Back.

  22. Couldn’t have hoped for a better start really. We look an athletic, youthful and tactically assured team. Not error-free and a bit of rustiness against a poor Down side and we’ll learn from it I’m sure but you can only beat what’s in front of you.
    The effort levels dropped a bit in the second half when the game was won and I’m sure Horan won’t be pleased at that but otherwise great start!

  23. Would love to see towey get a run. Plenty of options at the moment and most put in a good performance. A win next week and the pressure will be of for the 3rd game

  24. Grear result. All we need is to get out of this division and back where we belong as quick as possible. It seems Horan is just going for it now due to their only being 3 games. Nice display, wudnt read too much into D2 football, lets just get back to D1 and worry about championship when the time comes.

  25. Only listened to it on the radio but it seems no team in division 2 will be able to live with Mayo physically by all accounts. It’ll be just the one year in the lower ranks I’d say before returning to division 1 for next season. Well done Mayo and great to be back to playing ball again.

  26. Kerry gone into 11/4 for the All Ireland in the last 20 minutes .Some big bets being placed.

  27. Great service from Gaago too.
    Pleasantly surprised to hear Marty on commentary.I bought the €25 pass last night,savage value too!
    Galway getting a trimming here,in reality Kerry were going to blow away whoever they were playing in their first game back after the last min goal in PUC last year

  28. Very decent for first game of the year. but plenty to work on too. -(thinking ahead to Meath game)
    Ryan O,D very good inside and might suit him better than CHF. Conroy very sharp. Would like to see Towey again too
    Half forward line was ónly average for me, definetely no nailed on starters there IMO.
    Ruane very good and DoC usual good shift,
    Hession did well, might struggle against a stronger man but he has plenty of time to bulk up.

  29. Good victory against an admittedly poor Down side.
    Tommy C, ROD and Oisin probably the standouts. Ruane had some good moments too. It’s great that’s it the relatively new players that are showing up. We don’t need Keegan, McLoughlin etc. pulling up trees at this point, we know they will deliver for us later in the year.

    This GAAGO service is great, especially if you’re outside of Ireland. You can pick and choose your games to watch. Just watching the Cork Kildare game now, to get some idea of what we might be facing in a potential semi final. It’s a poor enough game between two average sides. But hard to judge too much on everyone’s first game back.

    Kerry 20 points up on Galway, not sure what to make of that…still, if it hypes up Kerry once again, no harm done. Our Div 2 status will keep us relatively under the radar up to Championship time.

  30. Good performance and great start to the campaign but Down are really a Division 3 team. Harder battles ahead.Great to see Boyler back. Meath our toughest opponents yet to come. Conroy and Ryan OD outstanding. Hession very good on his debut. Defensive frailties still there. We beat Westmeath and Meath beats them tomorrow that means we are in the semis.
    Galway in relegation trouble already.

  31. Does anyone know how the league placings are decided? It’s usually the head to head results, but is it points difference in this new format?

  32. Bit disappointed with scope of what GAAGO is giving me……the “65 games” stood out for me and I pressed the buy button and got it last night……Should have used my brain re it providing “non televised” games…..Somehow I thought that that got me around the need for SKY Sports or Eirspirts subscriptions, neither 9f which I had……..Bit I see our next Mayo game (on GAAGO games list) “not available in ROI or NI”…….So hoping that means might be on TG4 or I wont see it at all……..

  33. MartyK, our game with Westmeath is on Eir Sport, so you won’t be able to get it on GAAGO if you’re in Ireland.

  34. I thought Down gave us enough trouble. Had they been a little sharper in front of goal we would have a closer game, but they did open us up down the middle a little too easily.
    Nice opener for us, substitutions in second half and the rain showers were qutie disruptive. Both Keegan and McLoughlin gave away silly frees and we had some silly turnovers.
    Full forward line have a lethal look about them.
    Roll on next game

  35. Could be wrong here, but did they not scrap semi finals for this year? I was under the assumption that the top team in D2 North and South get promoted! i.e we need to win our two remaining games to go back up?

    Would read too much into the Galwayperformance, its only league at the end of the day. We destroyed them in Tuam, yet just about hung on in the connacht fina. I fully expect them to wipe Roscommon out in the Connacht semi.

  36. Terrific performance by Mayo today.. Tommy Conroy, Ryan O Donohue and Matthew Ruane the pick of the bunch.. Seen the second half of Kerry v Galway, wondering if Padraig Joyce got Jim McGuinness to take charge of another training session for the Tribesmen after yet another dreadful defensive performance.. Wouldn’t like to see Galway go down, but they need to seriously improve if they are to stay up.. Good luck to the Rossies V Dublin tommorow, hopefully we can have 3 Connacht team’s in Div One next year when hopefully we will be allowed to attend game’s again.

  37. Feck it anyway Dan…….I dont have Eirsport……….Thanks for that info..

  38. Top 2 go into semi final of the league, will need to win semi final to be promoted, that means that we could have 2 to 3 competitive games before the championship, will be good for the newer players

  39. This was comfortable and we had another gear, can’t see any team bar meath troubling us in D2

  40. Bottom 2 teams in each section also play semi finals with the losers getting relegated. If a finalist team has championship the week after league final then league final scrapped and both teams considered champions. Does anyone have an opinion on new penalty rule where penalty awarded for cynical foul on goalscoring opportunity inside 21 or the d?

  41. MayoDunphy, There are semifinals this season. Top two in Div 2 north and south meet with the two winners promoted. Good win today and happy enough with the performance for the first day out.

  42. Great result today well done to all concerned. It was never going to be easy as nobody knew where they were in terms of form. Facing a team from another jurisdiction is an added problem because the rules were different up in the north. I was delighted to see James McCormack back. He has plenty of football and his presence transforms the Claremorris side. I think young Hession had a great start to his inter county career. Personally I expected him to play up front. JH will be pleased with much of that. A slightly different team next week. I thought the point by JF was a peach while 2 defenders watched on in admiration. Great to see Paddy Tally leave empty handed yet again.

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