After two successive (and successful) weekends spent playing at opposite ends of the country, the lads will be back on home territory this coming Sunday for our NFL Division 1 clash with Monaghan (throw-in 2.30 pm but remember that it’ll be summer time again by then) where hopefully we can take another decisive step towards a place in this year’s league final. I dunno about the rest of you but I’m looking forward to welcoming the team back to McHale Park after the memorable fortnight they’ve given us on the road.
I remember feeling a bit pissed off when I first saw our 2010 NFL fixture list with those four away fixtures on it and I seem to recall that Johnno voiced his disapproval at some point over the fact that we would, once again, be obliged to take to the road on four occasions over the course of this year’s league campaign. Back then, I certainly never expected us to have a 100% return from the trips to Omagh, Derry and Tralee and I never thought I’d hear Johnno joking – as he did in an interview with TG4 after last Sunday’s win over Kerry – that we should perhaps consider, given that our recent away record is now so strong, playing all our future league games away from home.
So, given their encouraging exploits of late away from home, the lads deserve a good rousing welcome when they take to the field at Castlebar the next day and, in this regard, it’s important that there’s a good crowd at the game to provide this welcome and to get behind the team properly once the ball is thrown in. Those who haven’t definitively decided whether or not to go to McHale Park on Sunday will, no doubt, be tempted by the news that TG4 will be showing the match live and the shitty weather forecast could also make the option of watching the game on the living room couch a more appealing one.
But, you know, it won’t be the same, what with the commentator blathering away in Irish and the atmosphere at home in no way matching what would be on offer if you were at the game. And sure haven’t you already survived the harshest winter in living memory? No self-respecting Mayoman should never have his progress checked by a bit of soft March rain and, in any event, wasn’t the shiny new stand built to keep that stuff off our heads?
Having missed the last two away games myself, I know I’m in no position to get all preachy about why everyone should make an effort to get to McHale Park on Sunday, although the knowledge that I’ll be covering the usual 320 miles or so to do the roundtrip to Castlebar (actually, it’s more as I’m going via Galway to take in the Blog Awards the previous night) makes me feel a little bit more entitled to lecture on this topic. The way I see it is that the lads have kept the flame alight for the county on their travels and so it’s only right and proper that we show our appreciation for their efforts on their return home.
It’s going to be a tough match too – even if Paddy Power have us heavily odds-on for it – and you’ll probably already know that Alan Dillon is doubtful to be lining out. The Mayo News is reporting that he has a leg injury which he picked up in a collision with Kerry’s portly captain, Bryan Sheehan. This isn’t, in truth, a major worry for us, given the various options we have in the forwards at the moment and it’d probably make sense to rest Alan for this one so that he’s fit and raring to go for the difficult trip to Cork two weeks later.
The same report states that Enda Varley is still licking his wounds (obviously as a result of all that kicking and belting he got off Tom O’Sullivan the last day) but the Garrymore man should apparently be okay to start against Monaghan. It sounds as if Ronan may not be fit to line out on Sunday but, like Alan, there’s no need to risk him for this one, given the positive performances put in by Tom Parsons and Seamus O’Shea in the engine room in Tralee.
That report also states that Barry Moran and Aidan Kilcoyne are both approaching full fitness once more and it looks as if both might even feature in the squad before the end of the NFL campaign. It would, I think, be wholly appropriate for Killer to make an appearance at some stage during the second half down in Páirc Uí Rinn, given that it was courtesy of his boot that we claimed the spoils the last time we faced the Donkey Ayters down there.