With almost indecent haste, we’ve arrived today at the final round of this year’s National League. Our opponents this afternoon in Round 7 of Division One are Kildare and throw-in at our temporary home of Páirc Seán MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon is 1.45pm. Meath’s David Gough is the ref.
There is, of course, another game for us in this year’s League after today’s final round and that’s the final itself this day week. Kerry are already guaranteed to be there and, had we shown a bit better form over the last two games, there’s a good chance we’d have booked our place in the Croke Park decider by now as well.
But we didn’t and, as yet, we haven’t nailed down a place in it. It’s in our own hands, though – win today and we’re definitely in the decider. And even if we don’t get a result today, we might still – depending on how other results go – make Croke Park next weekend.
The permutations surrounding League placings are all a bit dizzying – Kildare could get relegated today but equally they might end up in the decider – but, from our perspective, it’s all simple enough. If we win today we’re in the final and, of course, that’s what we should be aiming to do.
The manner in which we lost our way in both Tralee and Omagh provides an interesting backdrop to today’s match. At times – in particular in Omagh – it looked like we weren’t madly interested in claiming the points on offer.
I’m not sure I buy the narrative about our actively seeking to avoid making it to the League final. It’s a game at the venue we like best, against what’s currently the best team in the country. Sure, it’s a match we could lose but that’s true of every game we contest. Plus it’s a national title and we’re not exactly overburdened with those.
Kildare will do what they can to thwart whatever ambitions we might harbour about a League final appearance. They have their own battle to fight today – one against relegation – and, like us, they come into this game with their fate in their hands too.
The Lilies should also, from our perspective, provide us with a challenge not a million miles removed in likeness from that which Galway will give us. They have strength, with plenty of mobility in every line and forwards who are well able to shoot, while their backline isn’t perhaps as tight as it should be. How we match up against them will give us a decent indication of how well we’re placed to keep the neighbours in check next month.
These last few rounds have been strange for us, so accustomed we are to scrapping for our lives almost every year to avoid the drop. This year we had, by Round 4, achieved our spring target of retaining our top tier status, a luxury that has allowed us to experiment pretty widely since then.
That experimentation – whether enforced or by design (and it’s looks like it’s been a bit of both) – continues at Páirc Seán today. Despite that, we’re still sending out a strong enough team this afternoon, one that has the ability to get a win for us.
Our home-from-home record in this League campaign has been good so far. It would be great if we could extend this unbeaten ‘home’ run today, which would also give an appropriately positive sign-off to our wanderings around the province this spring.
And if we do manage the win, we’re also signing up for another meeting with Kerry, this time in front of the eyes of the nation at Croke Park. If that happens, we should, of course, welcome that challenge too and do what we can to lift the silverware then.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today’s job is to put an end to this losing streak and claim the win that’ll book our place in the League final. It’s a place that’s there to be claimed by us so let’s get out there and do this.
Safe travelling to all who are on the roads to Carrick today. With a full house expected at Páirc Seán later on, it should be a great atmosphere and here’s hoping the match lives up to its billing too, with the right result from our point of view. Up Mayo.