I’m back again, following another work-induced absence, but once more chasing my proverbial tail. Time for a few more stats, though, as the run-up to Sunday’s NFL Division One encounter with All-Ireland champions Cork starts in earnest.
I’ve just been going over our recent results in the league to see how we’ve fared out in the spring against the team that landed Sam the previous September. Looking back over the archives, I can see that every year for the past seven years, our NFL campaign has involved – as this year’s does too – a meeting with the reigning All-Ireland champions. So, how have we done in these encounters with the previous year’s Kings of September?
Not too badly is the short answer. Since 2004, our Division One fixture list has always involved a clash with the custodians of Sam and out of those seven meetings, we’ve won three, drawn two and lost two. The two defeats we’ve suffered come right at the start of the sample – Tyrone (in their first outing since the tragic death of Cormac McAnallan) gave us a good walloping in March 2004 and then Kerry had four points to spare over us twelve months later.
Since then, however, our record against the September heroes has been a good one – we drew with Tyrone in 2006, beat Kerry in 2007 (to give us, in Johnno’s first league outing as manager, some hollow revenge for the 2006 All-Ireland final thrashing by them) and again in 2008 (the day of the Spoongate affair), we drew with Tyrone in 2009 (on a day when a draw was all both of us needed to stay up and where it became increasingly obvious as the match went on that a draw was what we were going to get) and then we beat Kerry again in 2010.
Another odd fact is that, apart from that win down in Tralee twelve months ago, all of the other six clashes with the reigning All-Ireland champs took place – as Sunday’s will too – in McHale Park.
Does any of this matter a jot? Perhaps not, but recent history does at least suggest that just because Cork are coming to town as All-Ireland champions it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’ll have things their own way once the ball is thrown in.