We’re not yet half-way through February but today at Pearse Stadium we’re due to play our third match in this year’s National Football League campaign. Galway, already feeling right at home on their return to top tier spring football, provide the opposition and the match throws in today at 2pm, preceded by the ladies’ League clash between the same counties, which gets going at midday.
Even as I sat down to write this bit of pre-match babble, it wasn’t clear if the game today would go ahead at all. But Galway GAA have since confirmed via Twitter (here) that both the ladies’ match at 12pm and the lads’ game at 2pm are on.
So, despite the raw February backdrop, it’s game day against Galway. A game that’s been given rather a high billing – including an outsized preview on RTÉ – which means it’s being portrayed as a meeting with pivotal significance for both counties.
Because it’s only February it’s important, however, not to build this game up to be of greater significant than it deserves. Sure, it’s a derby game and, yes, they’re getting a bit under our skin of late but what happens today at the Salthill venue has little or no relevance as regards the championship and, in particular, our meeting with them in the Connacht championship in May.
Galway have started the year in flying form. Two wins from two is an impressive start and if they targeted a positive opening to their Division One campaign then they can be rightly happy about how they’re getting on. A win over us today and they’ve all but guaranteed their place in the Division for next year, leaving them free, if they want, to push on towards earning a place – surely against Dublin – in the final.
And a win over us is obviously what they’ll want today. Kevin Walsh seems to have drilled it into his players that every time they take the field against us they need to be aiming to beat us. Their recent record against us is good – Stephen Rochford has yet to taste victory as manager in a match against the Tribesmen.
Part of Galway’s playbook against us nowadays is to front up physically. That was their approach in our last two championship meetings and they even, rather laughably, rolled out the rough stuff in that FBD mudbath encounter last month. We can definitely expect to see plenty of the same at Pearse Stadium today.
Assuming this happens, we’ve no choice today but to meet fire with fire. Monaghan came out swinging at us up in Clones and Kerry did the same in Castlebar last weekend. We’re in danger of getting a reputation of being a team that can be bullied and it’s important that any such narrative is smothered and quickly.
So, first and foremost today we need to show – in a match that’s being televised live on TG4 – that if the going gets rough then we’re well able for such an environment. That could make for some robust exchanges at Pearse Stadium this afternoon but if that’s the way it has to be then so be it.
Will we win today? There’s no reason we can’t, even if the prevailing conditions will turn the match into a bit of a lottery and where our opponents appear to be quite a significant bit further down the road with their training than we are right now.
A win for us would, for sure, be great, a second loss in a row would be less than great – not least with the Dubs coming to MacHale Park in the next round – but it would be no cause for panic either. After all, it’s still only February.
The morning isn’t looking hectic weather-wise but once I’ve signed off here I’m getting ready to hit the road, as so many of you will be doing too. Safe travelling to all of you on the road today, here’s to the right result at Pearse Stadium later on. Back later on with all the usual post-match stuff. Up Mayo!
Andy Moran is a player who always relishes meetings like this – who can forget his comeback goal for us at Salthill in 2013? – but, of course, football is likely to be far from his mind today, following the death yesterday of his father Vincent. Sincere condolences to Andy and his family on their very sad loss.