It’s match day once more but, for the first time this year, it’s an all-or-nothing situation for us. Losing in Connacht – for the second year in a row – has also meant we’ve lost our safety net and so, from here on, it’s a case of one slip and we’re gone until 2018.
The do-or-die nature of this evening’s contest inevitably means that it’ll be a tension-filled occasion at MacHale Park. There’ll be edginess on the field and there’s likely to be a bit of nervousness too up in the stands. This will be a championship clash to be endured rather than enjoyed.
As I’ve already said on here this week, I’m extremely nervous – much more than usual – heading into this game. I know we’re strong favourites, that Derry aren’t the force they were a few short years ago and that we should definitely win this. But only if we put in a convincing performance.
We know from last year that the qualifier route can only be handled one step at a time. We know too from twelve months ago how perilous each of those steps can be and how much effort will be required to ensure we make it safely to the next round.
Make no mistake, this evening’s Round 2A clash with Derry is a huge match for this team. It’s not a game we necessarily need to win with a flourish (though cutting a bit of a dash wouldn’t go amiss either) but it’s a game we need to perform solidly in to get the win.
We’ve enough quality and experience in our ranks to make sure this happens. There can, however, be no ifs, buts or maybes about this one – we need to win, end of.
Those of us looking on also have a big part to play this evening. The two home qualifier ties we played last year were great occasions and they gave us real momentum heading to Croke Park. We need to see a big home crowd at MacHale Park later today, we need to see more colour, we need to hear more noise.
The road back to Croke Park for us starts here, it starts now. Let’s do it. Up Mayo!