We’re set for a big match experience under the MacHale Park lights tonight. All-Ireland champions Kerry are rolling into town, taking on our lads in a National League Division One Round 2 fixture. Seán Hurson of Tyrone is the ref for a match that throws in at 7.30pm this evening. It’s being shown live on TG4.
We’re level on two points each going into this match so, while a win may not a must for either of us, it’s certainly something we wouldn’t be passing up on at the same time. Two points tonight would set the winners on the high road to Division One safety while a loss would raise real concerns about getting dragged into a relegation dogfight. That’s the way life is in the League’s top tier.
It’s easy enough to argue that we’re in need of a win that bit more. Not least in light of the fact that over the past four years Kerry have settled into a nice, comfortable pattern of beating us every time they’ve played us.
We may have believed that our League final win over them in 2019 provided proof that we were more than a match for them. But we’ve now suffered five defeats on the trot to them since then – three in the League, including last year’s dreadful Division One decider, and two in the Championship, with three of those losses occurring last year alone – and this one-way traffic has decisively altered that particular narrative.
So we’re definitely due a win over them at this stage. That alone means nothing, of course – Dublin beat us nearly every time they played us for close to a decade and they never seemed to get bored with doing this. As the saying goes, winning is a habit. So is losing.
But there’s another reason we could do with a win in this one. And that’s the simple fact that we haven’t yet secured a victory in a competitive match under the new management team led by Kevin McStay. True, we’ve got two points on the board from the two League games we played – one we should really have lost and the other we should definitely have won – but we haven’t yet experienced what a win feels like in a match that counts for something under this ticket. It would be nice to find out later on this evening.
A match against the All-Ireland champions – albeit fielding a team shorn of the majority of the players who won Sam for them last July, though with heavy hitters like Clifford and O’Shea on the bench – played under the lights in front of what’s expected to be a crowd in excess of 15,000: that would be a fitting occasion to record a first competitive win for this management team. Here’s hoping that’s what we get to witness tonight.
There are two other games involving the county taking place today. The women are also in National League action against the reigning All-Ireland champions, with that match against Meath throwing in at Páirc Tailteann in Navan at 2pm.
It’s been a frustrating campaign so far for the women, who have suffered three narrow defeats on the trot, and today’s match is unlikely to be any easier for them either. The good thing about Michael Moyles’ charges, though, is their positive attitude and a team displaying such battling qualities will eventually get its reward. Maybe not today but I wouldn’t bet against them either.
Earlier on this afternoon, at 1pm in the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, the county’s U20 footballers are set to take on Derry in Round 2 of the Leo Murphy Cup. For both teams, this match – indeed, the tournament as a whole – provides valuable preparation for a Championship campaign that gets going in April.
Speaking of getting going, I’m still on the wrong side of the country right now so I need to get moving shortly. I’m looking forward to the drive west, looking forward too to the big match atmosphere under the lights in Castlebar later on this evening.
The Armagh crowd turned the Athletic Grounds into a real cauldron the last day – what great, passionate supporters they are – and our big home support should aim to do the same tonight. After all, what’s the point in heading to a game like this unless it’s with the intention of exercising the vocal chords and showing the lads we’re right behind them?
So, here’s to plenty of roaring, here’s to having plenty to roar about as well. Let’s get this long overdue win over Kerry in the bag. Let’s get to it. Up Mayo.