Right, then – the teams have been named and it’s all systems go ahead of tomorrow’s League Division One opener against Cork down at Páirc Uí Rinn (throw-in 2pm). With my own schedule having freed up for tomorrow, the car is already full of juice and the road to the Rebel County is there to be traversed in the morning.
I’m looking forward to the off and looking forward too to being there: it’s a new year of football and a new start for us, with the county’s fortunes now entrusted to Stephen Rochford and his newly installed management team. On the field it’s a mixture of old and new, a nice blend of experienced and fringe players for our first competitive match of the year.
It’s an interesting side we’ve picked for this one, with the nine starters from the All-Ireland semi-final replay last September demonstrating that we’re not, perhaps, as weakened as many have this week claimed we currently are. Sure, we’re experimenting a bit tomorrow but so too are most other teams in the Division at this time of the year.
We’re taking more of a risk at the back, fielding four less established faces – including two League debutants, the Garrymore duo of Shane Nally and Caolan Crowe. Brendan Harrison and Shane McHale have, though, seen a fair bit of action before and need to see more ahead of the summer so it’s good to have them in from the start tomorrow.
We’re strong in midfield – possibly far stronger than them – and we look strong too in the forwards, a sector where I felt we looked particularly lightweight against Roscommon two weeks ago. The return of Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin and Diarmuid O’Connor (who only came on in the second half against the Rossies) certainly provides a good deal more heft and guile in this area.
Will we do it? It’s hard to know: Cork have a good home record in the League but we’re one of the few counties to come away from their patch with any joy in recent years. We only lost when conceding a late, late goal last year and we won the previous two times we played down there. We should, then, travel tomorrow with confidence and the fact that we’re likely to outnumber the legendary home support by around 4:1 most likely won’t harm our case either.
The bookies say Cork, the poll here on the site (not an unbiased sample, I know) says us, with 47% of voters giving us the nod while 41% plumped for them with 12% opting for a draw. Sure, you’d never know: a draw it could well be.
I’m planning on hitting the road south early tomorrow to leave enough time for the spuds before the game. Then it’s the Rebels, hopefully, for dessert afterwards. I’ll be doing the usual post-match audio stuff from the ground after the final whistle has sounded and, if the 4G signal is okay, will aim to get the Man of the Match poll up here on the site as soon as I can thereafter, with the match report to follow.
Safe travelling all and here’s to a good start to 2016 for us tomorrow.