Game day – this one’s a tough test

The lads head north today for our Round 2 outing in this year’s League campaign. Monaghan provide the opposition in this one, with throw-in at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones set for 2pm. Tyrone’s Seán Hurson is the ref for it. The match isn’t on television nor is it being streamed so if you don’t plan to be in Clones for it you’ll need to tune into either Midwest Radio or Northern Sound for live commentary on it.

Both teams will take the field today with one point on the board from the opening round in Division One. However, while we unquestionably came away from Markievicz Park last Sunday knowing that we’d picked up an undeserved point following what was in general a poor enough display, Monaghan will have been disappointed at failing – yet again – to get the better of Tyrone at Healy Park.

Back on home turf this afternoon, the Farney lads will be a tough proposition for us. The last time we played them up there was early in 2020, shortly before the pandemic struck, and they gave us a right thumping that day. If we start off this afternoon like we did against Donegal, the same outcome as that which we suffered two years ago could await us again today.

And, of course, we head into action today shorn – for the full year – of the services of Tommy Conroy. The Neale clubman was one of our best performers the last day and we’ll miss his appetite for hard work as well as his explosive pace, direct running and clever movement. An attack that often looked a bit blunt against Donegal will now have to cope without the rapier thrusts that Tommy was capable of providing.

But Jason Doherty is back and so too is Brendan Harrison, with both these experienced operators getting valuable and productive game time under their belts at Markievicz Park. We’ll need big performances from both of them again today. We’ll also need more end product from a half-forward line that almost never shoulders its fair share of the scoring.

I think it’s fair to say that we’re heading north for this one more in hope than in confidence. This is borne out by the poll here on the site, which almost always yields a positive prediction for how we might fare out in any game we’re heading into. This time, though, the glass-half-empty caucus have it: 48% of you who voted went for a loss today, with only 40% saying we’ll win. Perhaps more surprisingly, only 12% predicted a draw.

Ever the optimist, I have to confess that even I’d be in the downbeat camp today. While our comeback last Sunday was heart-warming to witness, the way we played for the first fifty minutes was anything but and if we perform with that degree of lassitude for as long in today’s match we’re sure to come away empty-handed.

So the question for us is can we make a marked improvement in seven days and so claim a win away from home against opponents who are stronger than the team we struggled against for so long last time out? You’d have to think that it would be a bit of a stretch to do this but the thing about Mayo is that we can never be sure. Here’s hoping James Horan’s charges can surprise us – and Banty’s lads – and come away with what would, in truth, be an unexpected win.

Elsewhere, today’s a big day for the footballers of Kilmeena and Castlebar Mitchels. The former take on Kerry’s Gneeveguilla in the Junior All-Ireland club final st Croke Park while the latter face Dublin’s St Sylvesster in the LGFA Intermediate final at Duggan Park in Ballinasloe. In addition, the county’s hurlers get their NHL Division 2B campaign underway this afternoon when they face Wicklow at James Stephens Park in Ballina.

I’ll embed the feed of the Kilmeena game – which TG4 are streaming on YouTube – here on the blog shortly so hopefully that might help a few more people to see the game. Aside from that, it’s a choice of either getting to one of the games or else following the action on Midwest.

Our club members on Patreon have, though, another option in following what’s happening today as we’ll have a match day chat going on Discord, with representation from the podcast at both St Tiernach’s Park and at Croke Park. We’ll also have our ‘Final Whistle’ podcast episode out later on for club members.

I’ll be back here on the blog after the game with the MOTM poll, match report and all that, hopefully reflecting on a productive day for the county. We shall see.

Best of luck to all the teams from the county in action today, in particular the two shooting for All-Ireland honours. Up Mayo.

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Game day – this one’s a tough test