After the bright summer sunshine at Cusack Park in Ennis yesterday it was rain and wind at Pearse Stadium today. I doubt that bothered the Roscommon faithful much as Kevin McStay’s charges pulled off a glorious ambush, spectacularly bursting Galway’s self-regarding balloon to seal their first Connacht title since 2010. Well done to them.
By a funny coincidence I was in Salthill today myself – on visiting-kid-in-Gaeltacht-duties – and so I was no more than a few minutes from Pearse Stadium while the match was on. Mercifully, I managed to avoid the worst of the traffic circulating around the ground, skirting very close to it in the closing moments, large numbers of dejected Galway fans already streaming away from Pearse Stadium by then.
Today’s result is, of course, a hell of a comedown for the Tribesmen. From the manic, over-the-top scenes of celebration after they beat us – a defeat that becomes ever harder to understand when you see how mediocre they were today – to now find themselves slumming it with us in Round 4A of the qualifiers, that’s a bit of a fall in a few weeks. As the man says, hubris followed by nemesis.
But the schadenfreude-laden thoughts about the travails of the Tribesmen shouldn’t be our main concern this evening, even if I couldn’t resist a bit of that just now. From our perspective the main consequence of the Rossies’ Nestor Cup-winning victory today is, of course, the fact that we’re now paired with Cork in Round 4A of the qualifiers. That match will be played on Saturday week, 22nd July, with fixture details for the game, I think, set to be confirmed tomorrow.
On the venue question, it’s worth looking at that Páirc Uí Chaoimh possibility first. As has already been raised in the comments, there’s been some talk over the last few days that the redeveloped Cork venue could host the Round 4A qualifier involving the Rebels. John Fogarty’s piece in the Irish Examiner the other day (here) explains the rationale for this.
With Cork having won the Munster hurling title today, however, this reasoning is now moot as the Rebels go straight into the All-Ireland SHC semi-final. This means that the two hurling quarter-finals can, as planned, be played as a double header at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and so the Cork footballers can, as they should, be sent on the road.
Let’s be completely clear here. The notion of sending us to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for Round 4A would never have been remotely acceptable from our perspective, regardless of the scheduling neatness the CCCCCCCC might have dreamt up had Cork been on the hurling ticket. With the Cork hurlers out of the equation then Páirc Uí Chaoimh as a possible venue for our match with Cork goes out the window too.
So, where might it be played? There’s a chance, I gather, that the two Round 4A games could – for TV purposes – be played as a double-header at the same venue. As well as the hilarity of seeing the neighbours joining us in the flesh in the backwoods of the qualifiers, that means finding a geographical location that works reasonably okay for Cork, Donegal, Galway and ourselves.
So, if one assumes Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Pearse Stadium and MacHale Park are all ruled out, where does that leave? Limerick? Tullamore? Cavan?
I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. In the meantime, we need to start thinking seriously about Cork and the kind of challenge they’ll pose for us. More on that in the days ahead.