It’s the small lad’s birthday in this house today but it’s also a weekend of football and, of course, it’s not just the round ball stuff that’s of interest either. We have the U21s in action again today prior to another league match tomorrow and, of the two, today’s U21 championship clash with out near neighbours is arguably the more interesting one. Roscommon are coming to Charlestown today boasting an U21 side peppered with All-Ireland minor medalists from 2006 and with memories still fresh about how they very nearly did for us in last year’s U21 Connacht final, they’ll come across the border later today confident in their ability to end our three-year reign as provincial champions at this level. Eyeing any stray sheep they encounter along the way, of course.
Our narrow win over Galway last weekend will, however, stand to us, with Roscommon coming into today’s match cold and, quite possibly, not as well prepared for action as our lads will undoubtedly be. Maybe that’s why the bookies are quoting us at 8/15 (miserable odds, no matter how you look at them) to win today. I think we should do it – and, as a result, all but secure a fourth U21 Connacht title on the spin – but it could well turn out to be as close as the Galway game last weekend.
The bookies are also confident we’ll win against the Dubs tomorrow, as are those who responded to the poll on this site, with 85% saying we’ll do it. RTÉ is saying the same thing, Setanta opts for the draw while the Indo, meanwhile, plumps for the Dubs. Take your pick, in other words. There’s no link to the previews in the Times but that paper does carry an interview by Keith Duggan with Johnno, which finds the Deputy in a more upbeat mood than of late and where, for a change, there’s not a moan to be heard. He even says that because we’re not being automatically mentioned in anyone’s list of the top handful of counties in the country, this affords us the opportunity to “slip in under the radar” this year. That’s more like it, Jefe.
Tomorrow’s game is, of course, live on the box – well, for those of us in cable land it is anyway (those of you on Sky have to pay extra to get the relevant Setanta channel, I think) – and the thought of not having to stray from the couch tomorrow to see the game is one that isn’t devoid of its attractions. That said, however, I’ve now missed three league matches in a row and so my knowledge of how things went in these games has been fairly severely refracted through the worldview of the Mike and Billy lens and so it’s definitely time to have a look at what’s going on with my own eyes. The weather should be a hell of a lot kinder than the last match I was at in Ballina in early February and I’m expecting a more positive outcome from the seventy minutes tomorrow as well.
Finally, onto next weekend and it’s interesting to see that our match with Galway a week tomorrow has been fixed for Tuam and not their usual home venue, Pearse Stadium. PJ tipped me off about this yesterday but if PJ’s word isn’t good enough for you (and he’s not a man to spread any wild rumours, believe me), here’s the official confirmation from the GAA’s website. While Tuam is obviously far handier for anyone planning to travel from Mayo to it (it’s a much of a muchness from here compared to Salthill, though it’ll obviously involve more cross-country driving west of Athlone), I think it’s interesting that they’ve shifted the match away from the city. In making this decision, I doubt very much that the convenience of visiting supporters would have been uppermost in their minds.
Most Mayo supporters won’t need reminding that the last time we won a match in Pearse Stadium was back in 1967 and, while Galway will, by virtue of our contrasting league form, be strong favourites to beat us next weekend, I guess they know – this being Galway v Mayo, like – that anything could happen. In that regard, I also guess they’d prefer if that anything didn’t include losing their long unbeaten record over us at Salthill and would instead much prefer us to arrive there in July (should we both get there – we have what could be a tricky semi to deal with first) with that particular monkey still on our backs.