The first real test of the Championship faces us later on this evening at MacHale Park in Castlebar. Roscommon provide the opposition in this Connacht SFC semi-final, which throws in at 7pm and where Meath’s David Gough is the ref.
Needless to say, this is a match neither side wants to lose. For the winners there’s a place in the Connacht final – for us, it’d be the first time we’ve made it that far since 2015 – and a step closer to the Super 8s. For the losers, it’s the hard road of the qualifiers.
It’s a road we know but one we’d gladly avoid this year. Roscommon, likewise, won’t relish being sent on their travels in that direction. So tonight’s results has real consequences for both.
We know well what Anthony Cunningham’s team are likely to bring to the table tonight. They’ve developed a harder edge and a more defensive approach to their play this year, so the challenge they’ll pose for us will more resemble the tactics that have worked so well for Galway against us in recent years. We need to be ready for this and have the required plans to deal with it.
For what it’s worth, I think we’ll be able to do this. We’ve a solid backline, a strong middle sector – where they’re not overly powerful – and forwards who can ask awkward questions of what can at times be an uncertain defence.
James Horan likes his teams to play with a high tempo. If we go hard at them early on, it could pay rich dividends for us and could see us home without too much trouble.
But if the going is hard and it takes us longer to break them down then we need to be patient. We have to show that we’ve learned from those three defeats to Galway and that we know how to win no matter how the opposition lays out its stall.
Either way we should win but sadly I won’t be there myself to see it. It’s going to be a slightly out-of-body experience for me this evening, only catching echoes of the game via updates on the phone, but sure there you go.
I am, though, looking forward to reading Cian’s take on the game here on the blog afterwards and to see what all the rest of you have to say about the match as well.
Safe travelling to all heading to Castlebar later on today. While you’re on the road, you could do a lot worse than listen to our bumper, match preview episode of the podcast – it’s available here and from all the usual podcasting sources. And please give a shout or two extra for the team at the game on my behalf seeing as I won’t be there bellowing myself.
James Horan’s second coming as manager has begun in the most encouraging way. Tonight it would be great to see the first signs of real intent in this Championship from his reshaped and repurposed Mayo team. Or, in my case, to hear positive dispatches in this vein.
It’s time to get this moving. Up Mayo.