So, the championship is off and running once more, off on its crazy, meandering four-month run, one that alternates between periods of very little activity and bouts of frenetic action. Although Galway were first out of the traps (and damn near out altogether) the weekend before last, it was only yesterday that the summer season got going properly, with the first championship matches played on home soil and, of course, the return of all those same old faces we know and love on The Sunday Game.
It was fairly ominous, I thought, that Kerry didn’t seem to be any the worse for wear yesterday due to the loss of one-third of last year’s All-Ireland winning side. Well, they did line out with fourteen All-Ireland medallists and the manner in which they pulled away from the Stone Throwers in the second half at Semple Stadium yesterday suggested that we could end up being as pig sick of them this year as we have in previous years.
One of the Sunday papers (I’m not sure which one it was) suggested that the Kerry lads are determined to make it to the All-Ireland series via the front door this time around, mindful of all those years they have on the clock at this stage and their desire to give their increasingly uppity neighbours a reminder (yet another one) as to who is really boss when they meet at Killarney in a few weeks time. I don’t think I buy that argument – Kerry look, if anything, to be in better shape now than they’ve been at any time in recent years and I’d say they’re confident of making the All-Ireland series no matter what road they have to take. Beating Cork would certainly be the easier option for them and they could well do that but I doubt we’ll see too many obituaries written about them should they fail to do so either.
Our lads, meanwhile, are continuing to make their way through a thicket of challenge matches. The game down in Belmullet last Saturday seems to have been a very poor contest, with Cavan failing to get going at all. Trevor Howley’s second appearance in the corner would appear to confirm that he won’t be playing centre-back against Sligo and it now seems to be a straight choice between Tom Cunniffe and Donal Vaughan for this position. Tom started there and I think he’s now also likely to do so in Markievicz Park but there are still a few more challenge games to come so I guess the line-outs in these will give us some further clues about who will be playing where when we meet the Magpies.
Our next run-out takes place down in Abbeylara, Co. Longford, tomorrow evening where the lads are set to face Westmeath (where would our pre-championship season be without a meeting with Westmeath?) and then next Friday we’re due to play the Dubs down in Hollymount. That was the one I was hoping to take the kids to but there’s no way I could contemplate the three-hundred mile roundtrip that would be involved, even if it is against the Dubs. I don’t have a definite throw-in times for either of these matches, though one of the lads commenting here said that the one tomorrow evening is set to get underway at seven.