It’s a week on from our league semi-final defeat to Dublin and I’d intended to set down some thoughts before now on the match and the league campaign and all that. However, work and normal life got in the way and now it’s already seven days on from then and with a work trip starting tomorrow I’m not going to have the time to put together those considered ideas that I never really got to consider properly.
So, here’s the short version. A week on, I’m actually quite happy that we’re not in the league final: our first round championship clash with Galway in Salthill is now just four weekends away and an NFL decider seven days hence against Tyrone would have been far too much of a distraction. With their U21s blazing a trail this year (yet again – how long will it be before all this underage talent starts to tell at senior level?) we can expect that Galway will, despite their indifferent Division Two league campaign, put it up to us in Pearse Stadium and we need all the time we have between this and then to focus completely on this impending challenge.
Padraig Joyce said last week that Galway have been concentrating solely on this upcoming clash ever since the draw was made late last year and I’m sure James Horan has been giving it plenty of thought too. A league final three weeks out from Salthill wouldn’t, I’m sure, have been part of his master plan for 2013 so I’d say he’s more than happy to have dodged this particular date. The league ultimately served its purpose for us – we remained in Division One, which – according to this interesting piece of analysis by Ewan McKenna – is the most important thing for us to have achieved, and we got to blood some players, even if this didn’t result in our unearthing the “three or four” new players that James said he was looking for at the outset of the campaign.
As for last Sunday’s performance itself, I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m pretty much chilled out about that as well. Sure, it was annoying on the day to see the Gone Fishin’ signs go up the minute Paul Mannion lashed in Dublin’s opening goal but in retrospect it’s perfectly understandable that the lads should have stepped off the gas to the extent that they did at Croke Park last weekend. The previous two Sundays they had chiselled out hard-fought wins over the two teams that had beaten them in the two national finals they’d contested in 2012. Both of these league ties were must-win games and win them they did and so it’s little wonder that there wasn’t that much left in the tank last Sunday against a Dublin team that had, by contrast, qualified for the semis with two matches to spare.
So with the league done we’re back under the radar, counting down the days to the start of the year’s real action, which for us is set to get going far earlier this year than it did last summer. It’s all to play for and even if many of us (including myself, truth be told) harbour doubts about our ability to go all the way dish ear, we can at least face into the summer with the hope that, once again under James Horan’s leadership, we’ve every chance of featuring in the shake-up. And if we do, you can be sure that very little thought will be given then about how this year’s league campaign ended for us.