The draw has been made and we’re heading for Limerick on Saturday week. I’d meant to put together a brief primer earlier on today about our Round 1 opponents but work got in the way and so it never happened. Instead, you’ll have to make do with this thrown-together bit of background info on the Shannonsiders.
Let’s start with our history against them. This is easy enough to do, seeing as we’ve only met them very infrequently down the years. A (very) quick search in the results archive yields an NFL Division IVA meeting in Askeaton in October 1966 when we walloped them by 5-10 to 0-4. Maybe that was our first ever competitive meeting, maybe not.
Askeaton was also the venue for another noteworthy clash with the Treaty County. That was in short-lived Centenary Cup back in 1985, when we were rather gallingly thumped by 3-6 to 0-5 in a Round 2 tie.
The 21st century had dawned before we finally met in the championship. That, predictably, happened in the qualifiers where, in a Round 3 tie, we squeezed past them at Hyde Park, besting Liam Kearns’ team by just a single point on a scoreline of 0-13 to 1-9.
Limerick had a decent side in that first decade of the new Millennium and we met them in the top division of the NFL in 2007. That MacHale Park encounter – which we won by 1-10 to 0-7 – was our most recent competitive one with them. Both Keith Higgins and Andy Moran lined out for us that February day eleven years ago.
Since then we’ve gone our way and they’ve gone in a very different direction. In their case, this has meant a relentless slide down the pecking order, all the way down to Division Four of the National League. It’s not an environment where they’re covering themselves with glory either.
They were relegated to the bottom tier in 2016, having lost all but one of their Division Three matches. The following year they won four but lost three of their Division Four games, finishing fourth in the table, two points off the promotion places.
Last summer’s championship campaign was short and brutish for them. They only got two runs out, the first in the Munster semi-final against Clare and the second in Round 2 of the qualifiers against Wexford. They lost both matches by a single point and their inter-county year was over before the end of June.
Things didn’t get a whole pile better for them in Division Four this spring. Round 1 saw them lose 2-12 to 0-9 away to Laois, Round 2 was a 2-11 to 0-13 reversal at home against Carlow, Round 3 saw them draw 2-8 with London over in Ruislip, Round 4 was a crushing 2-18 to 1-9 hammering by Leitrim in Carrick but Round 5 brought some succour as they beat Waterford by 2-10 to 2-9 in Kilmallock. Round 6 was a match that was never played, as their game with Wicklow fell foul of the weather and was never subsequently re-fixed, while Round 7 brought another defeat, this time by 1-13 to 0-12 to Antrim at Saturday week’s venue. They ended the campaign in sixth place, having garnered just three points.
It was also at the Gaelic Grounds, the weekend before last, where Clare brought Limerick’s gallop in this year’s Munster championship to a rapid end. The Bannermen had a facile 1-22 to 0-14 win over their neighbours in that game, in the process extending Limerick’s winless run in Munster to six years.
So, then, that’s the kind of form our Round 1 opponents have been displaying the last while. It’s small wonder, to be honest, that Paddy Power have priced us at 1/50 to advance to the next round.
I’m going to leave off on the poll I’ve tended to close posts like this with. I think all that out-of-county voting for Tyrone in the poll I put up ahead of this morning’s draw has cured me of that kind of democracy for a while. Maybe closer the date itself I’ll fire the poll thingy up once more.
Instead, I’ll sign off now by giving an advance plug for the upcoming new episode of the Mayo News football podcast. This was recorded earlier today after the draw was made and is being edited even as I type. The new episode includes, amongst other things, Stephen Rochford’s reaction to our pairing with Limerick and it’s due to go online tomorrow morning.