This is it – the start of another inter-county season. Markievicz Park is our home away from home today for our return to Division One of the National Football League, where, at 1.45pm this afternoon, we lock horns with Donegal. Cavan’s Noel Mooney is the ref and the match is live on TG4 with radio commentary on Midwest.
I don’t, I confess, have any clear idea what to expect from our lads today. One line of argument – on the face of it, a persuasive enough one – says Donegal come into this with far better prep done, in the form of four McKenna Cup matches, while we only had that kick-about under the Dome and a few challenge games, with Oisín Mullin picking up a knock in one of them, keeping him out of today’s League opener.
But then when you start to look at the team we’ve named – will they all start, I wonder? – and it looks, Oisín’s absence notwithstanding, like a decent blend of youth and experience. Maybe, then, we’ll do what we haven’t often done in recent years, which is to hit the ground running from the off in the League.
Armagh’s eye-catching win over the flailing Dubs at Croke Park last night showed that it would be unwise to take anything for granted in the League’s top tier this spring. Dessie Farrell’s charges head for Tralee next weekend so it’s possible that, when they take the field against us back at HQ in Round 3, they might still be waiting to get off the mark in the division.
We could be in the same boat then too. Or, perhaps less plausibly, we might arrive at Croke Park with two wins on the board from our first two outings. That’s all to be determined.
The first two points of that potential four-point haul are up for grabs today. It would be great from our perspective if we were able to grab them. After last September’s crushing disappointment, a win today would represent the best possible way to put distance between us and that ghastly All-Ireland final showing.
Will we do it? I think if we’re to win today it’ll only be after a battle but, of course, that’s Division One football for you. Nothing ever comes easy in the game’s top tier. Not for us nor, lest we forget, for our opponents either.
Right, it’s an early start for those of us domiciled in the capital, who have a cross-country trek ahead of us. So there’s no time for dallying here.
But, hey, isn’t it great to be back in that world again? Covid isn’t fully gone yet but it does appear that the worst of the pandemic is now behind us and today’s game will be the first Mayo match since March 2020 where there are no restrictions on spectator capacity.
In that sense, it’ll be good to get back to that kind of normality today. We could all, in so many ways, do with a large helping of normal life once again.
Safe travelling all today. A few of us from the podcast will be on Discord with our Patreon club members leading up to and during the game and we’ll be recording a bonus ‘Final Whistle’ episode of the podcast soon after full-time that’ll be available for club members shortly after that.
Here on the blog, our first MOTM poll will go live shortly after the game is over and there’ll be the usual match report a bit later on too.
Yes, in every sense, we’re all back again. Let’s hit the road, people. Let’s get this positive opening round start. Up Mayo.