It’s less than thirty hours to throw-in at McHale Park tomorrow night but there’s no sign as yet of either team being named for the Division One clash between our lads and Kildare. @MayoGAA confirmed this morning that it’ll be “late tonight” when we finally reveal our starting line-up but I’ve no idea when the Lilies will name theirs. It may be as well, then, to bring a pen with you to McHale Park as there are likely to be a fair few changes prior to throw-in to the teams listed in the match programme.
Shorn of team personnel to talk about, there isn’t a huge amount to say about this first competitive meeting with the Short Grass County since we clashed in a Division One match at Newbridge five years ago. I was at that one, which we won handy enough, and looking at the line-up that day there aren’t too many of the players involved for us then who are still on the panel now. David Clarke, Tom Cunniffe, Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins, Alan Dillon and Andy Moran all started for us in that game with Barry Moran coming on as a late sub.
That’s all ancient history, of course, with the thumping goal scored by Tom Parsons and the late penalty for them converted by Johnny Doyle that day having no bearing at all on tomorrow night’s contest. Of more relevance to the upcoming clash is, however, the analysis penned following last weekend’s action.
In the Mayo News, Edwin McGreal has a great overview piece where he correctly points out that last Saturday night was the third match in a row where we failed to deal with the style of play the opposition imposed on us while Sean Rice concentrates in his weekly column on how the lads performed individually. Sean concludes with the pertinent point that “Mayo will not be taken seriously until they learn how to win, how to counter the stratagems of the opposition” and he references some of the Down play-acting (in particular standing too close to the freetaker) in support of this point. He’s right and it’s a point I want to come back to at some stage (if I ever get the time, which doesn’t look likely at this stage).
Most of you will probably have seen the more upbeat assessment from An Spailpín but if you haven’t it’s worth a look – here. An Spailpín is a man whose views I’d have the greatest respect for and he tends to be right about Mayo far more often than he’s wrong so I’m hoping this proves to be the case on this occasion. I’m normally happy to reside in the glass-half-full camp myself but my fear about this league campaign is that we won’t get the win we need from either Donegal or Cork (and that, by the way, assumes we’ll definitely win tomorrow night, which is an assumption in itself) and that the bitter taste of league relegation will carry over into the championship. In that regard, I’m not sure we really are doing just fine, though I accept that two wins out of our last three league matches would negate any claim that we’re not.
Just in case you think we’re the only ones grinding our teeth at the minute, it’s worth casting your eyes over this piece in the Kildare Nationalist written in the aftermath of that whipping the Dubs gave the Lilies last Sunday. They’re not in a happy place either right now – mind you, though, unlike us they’re guaranteed to be playing Division One football next year – and will come to Castlebar a wounded outfit. RTÉ, in their match preview, reckon that the visitors could bounce back from that Croke Park scalding with a win but Paddy Power have us as firm 8/13 favourites to prevail.
The ref, by the way, for tomorrow night’s fixture is Fermanagh’s Martin Higgins whom I don’t think we’ve ever encountered before for a competitive fixture at senior level.
I won’t be travelling west for this one, as we have other plans for the Bank Holiday weekend, and so I’m likely to be following it on the radio. Hopefully what I’ll be missing out on is a performance that finally gets us going in 2013. If ever there were a must-win game in the league, then this surely is it: are we really going to let a team like Kildare – all beefy, athletic huffing and puffing but bugger all else – come to our place and relegate us? Last year we faced a similar test when the far more formidable challenge of beating then All-Ireland champions Dublin was required at a time when our Division One status was in doubt. Now it’s even more in doubt and we simply have to start banishing this sense of diffidence with a coherent and confident display tomorrow night.