With the start of the 2011 National Football League now only a few short days away – if you haven’t yet seen it, by the way, An Spailpín’s observations on what the return of the football really means are worth a read – and the team not due to be announced until, I guess, tomorrow, it’s worth giving the results archive a rattle to see how we’ve fared down the years (pardon the pun) against Saturday evening’s opponents. The table below contains the full record of past clashes with the Mourne County and, as you can see, it’s been pretty much fifty-fifty since we first lined out against them a few weeks short of seventy years ago.
We’ve met a total of 15 times, with all of those meetings taking place (unsurprisingly) in the league – all in either Division One (however you want to define that) or in the knock-out stages, where we’ve clashed twice and where we’ve come out on top both times. We’re 8-7 ahead going into Saturday night’s match (we’ve never drawn a match with them yet) and we’re also aiming for our fourth victory on the spin against them. That stat won’t mean a huge deal to the lads who will be lining out for either side this weekend, though, as the last time we played them was back in February 2003 up in Newcastle. Andy Moran is the only player on the starting fifteen from that match eight years ago who is likely to feature at McHale Park on Saturday night.
We’ve only played them once before in Castlebar – back in 1986 where we squeaked home by the minimum margin. That was one of the two matches of this set I was at (the other being the 1983 defeat to them at Gilmartin Park in Kiltimagh where I recall that Ambrose Rogers Snr. was plying his trade for Down that February day) and anyone else who was there that day might remember the afternoon being lit up by an absolute screamer of a goal by Kiltane’s Joe Lindsay.
Our two most high profile clashes against the Mournemen occurred a decade earlier, though, when we twice met them at the business end of the league in Croke Park. In 1978 we edged them out by two points at the penultimate stage (before going on to lose to reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin in the final) but back in May 1970 we squared off in the final itself and proceeded to put four goals past them at HQ to claim our tenth NFL title.
So, while we will quite rightly welcome last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists to our home patch this weekend as the illustrious opponents that they are, we should also take the field knowing that we’ve a good record against them, one that the bookies expect us to maintain on Saturday. I’m now planning to be there, by the way, as the weekend’s social engagements of the next generation in our household have altered, freeing me up for a quick dash to the west and the chance to see a proper match for the first time in ages.