We were supposed to face Galway in this year’s National League back in March. They were on top of Division One, we were struggling to avoid relegation. Defeat to the neighbours would seal our demotion from the top tier.
Seven months on, those factors are still the same. Even if nothing else is.
At 2pm in Tuam Stadium today, we can, for a short time, forget about everything else that’s happening in the world in the crazy times we’re living through right now. Today we can focus on the football.
We can’t be there, of course, as the game – like all matches for the foreseeable future – is being played behind closed doors. A competitive fixture involving Mayo that isn’t attended by a huge following – that’s certainly a new departure. The match is, though, being broadcast live on TG4.
Both counties have named experimental teams and in both cases we can’t be sure how many of those who’ve been named to start will actually line out. We’ll find all that out, I guess, shortly before throw-in later on.
How will today’s game go? You’re guess is as good as mine, I’m afraid. I’ve no idea how much prep we’ve put in, still less what Galway have been doing.
Were the match played as scheduled in March, Galway would have been raging favourites. They were the form team in the country back then, we were flailing badly.
We were missing key players then too, notably Cillian O’Connor, who’d last lined out for us in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin the previous August. Cillian is back for us today, as are Mattie Ruane and Fionn McDonagh, neither of whom featured for us in the spring as well. Their return is a boost, though Jason Doherty’s latest cruel injury is an undoubted blow for us.
While the focus today will be on the League points we need to claim if we’re to have a shot at avoiding the drop, this unprecedented winter inter-county season, which sees us in Connacht Championship action in just two weeks time, means that some, if not most, of our planning is aimed at the knockout campaign that faces us next month.
So, even though today’s match is important in its own right, it needs to be viewed in the context of what lies ahead. And, of course, if we’re talking about context, nothing can, in the end, be fully considered without taking into account the pandemic times we’re all living through.
But, as I said at the top, we can, at least for a short while today, shut all that out. Today there’s a football match to be played and, we hope, won by the team in Green and Red. We’re off again, after a fashion. Up Mayo.