Can you believe it? It’s already Round 7 of this year’s League campaign, with another year of spring football all but done. Today we’re back on home turf, with Monaghan providing the opposition at MacHale Park in a Division One match that throws in at 2pm, while the ladies take on Cork in the curtain-raiser at midday.
Regardless of how today’s match goes, we can already conclude that this has been a very satisfactory League campaign from us. The consensus before we got going was that we needed to give significant game time to newer lads while doing what we could to retain our top tier status. I think we can all agree that these objectives – and more – have been successfully achieved.
It’s nice, for a change, to be heading into a Round 7 match without any niggling concerns about relegation. Today the questions we have are different ones. Will Tyrone do us a favour and open the door to the Division One decider for us if they win and we beat Monaghan? Do we want to be in a League final at all? Why on earth shouldn’t we?
Let’s deal with the Tyrone point first. That one is out of our hands. Tyrone might beat Galway up in Healy Park today, but they might not. What happens there is completely out of our control and so, to all intents and purposes, is of no interest to us.
What is of relevance, though, is how we do ourselves this afternoon at MacHale Park. While we’ve finally begun to rediscover the joys of winning at home this spring, the place is still a long, long way from being a fortress for us. Monaghan won’t, I’m sure, have any fears about coming to Castlebar to lock horns with us and, in truth, there’s no reason they should, given how poorly we tend to play here.
When was the last time we performed really well on home soil? We were okay – though no more than that – against Cavan but you have to go back a very long way to pick out the last time we played well at the venue. Kildare in the qualifiers back in 2016 was, I suppose, the most recent time we fired on all cylinders there.
Which is a way of saying that we’re long overdue a good home performance. That should be the aim today, on a day where the wind won’t be howling and the rain won’t be tumbling down. The sod will still be heavy, of course, and the dimensions will be too confined for the expansive game we play but there’s nothing we can do about those factors for today’s game.
Monaghan will be tough – possibly bordering on rough – opponents. All-Ireland semi-finalists last year, they’d consider themselves – with justification – our equals in the pecking order at this point in time. They come to Castlebar, however, still unsure that they’ll be in Division One next year so they’ll have plenty of motivation to do what they can to get the win.
So there’s plenty to play for today. For us, maybe even the chance to get to a League final, for the first time since 2012. But, more to the point, the chance to end the regulation series of matches in this year’s League campaign on a high, as well as the opportunity to bag our third home win this spring and our fifth this season.
That’s more than enough incentive for us. Whatever about qualifying for the League final we need to build on last weekend’s hugely positive result in Tralee, by sealing back-to-back wins and seeing where that might take us.
Best of luck to James and the lads today and special best wishes to James McCormack who is set to make his full League debut for the county this afternoon. Best of luck to the ladies in their game too. Let’s get behind the county’s teams to the full today. Up Mayo.