It’s game day, with another knockout championship match – and a tricky one at that – facing us later this afternoon. If it all goes wrong for us today against Tipperary that’s our year of senior inter-county football over but if it goes the right way then it’s another step towards redemption for us, leaving us two hurdles away from the Super 8s.
For sure, today’s match at Semple Stadium is one we should win but, at the same time, it’s also one where it doesn’t require too much imagination to see us getting into serious bother. Our form all year has been, to say the least, less than fully convincing and if that’s the form we take with us to Tipp then we could be in for a tough evening.
Against Limerick we provided a few hints, though, that our performance levels are rising once more. Granted, you have to factor in the weakness of the opposition and also acknowledge that most of our scoring glut occurred late enough in the day in that game. That said, there was much to be encouraged about in how we went about our business in the Gaelic Grounds and we’ll need to see that and a whole load more in our display later today.
We still don’t know, of course, if the team we’ve named for the game is the one that’ll start this evening. There’s loads of experience in the team we’ve named and you’d have to imagine that if we make any changes it’ll be to up the experience further – most likely by starting Diarmuid O’Connor instead of Cian Hanley. Were that to happen, by the way, then it’d mean that for tomorrow we’d only be missing three players from the team we started against them in the All-Ireland semi-final two years ago.
Fielding such an experienced line-up – regardless whether or not any further tweaks are made before throw-in to the side we’ve named – demonstrates just how seriously we’re taking the threat that Tipperary could pose for us this evening. They’re a decent side, with an astute manager, and their plans for 2018 didn’t, one assumes, include elimination from the championship in Round 2 of the qualifiers.
Neither did ours. In a similar way to how Tipp’s defeat to Cork proved so costly to them, though, our utterly avoidable loss to Galway has come at a great cost to us. After tonight’s game, elimination from the championship gets added to the cost for one of the two teams.
It’s a cost we know all about at this stage but we know too what our road to the last eight entails. Today it requires us to take on and take down Tipp and, only if we’re able to do this, will there be any road there for us to travel further on.
Misgivings about our form aside, I’d be confident enough that we’ll get the win this evening. These lads have shown time and again over the last two years how hard they are to beat in the qualifiers and that experience, allied to match sharpness that is surely improving with every passing week, should stand us in good stead today. I’m expecting a tough examination of our credentials but it’s one we should be up for and one that should ensure our name is once more in the draw on Monday morning.
Right, time to start readying for road. Safe travels all who are taking the trip to Tipp today and, for those who like shouting, make sure to shout as loud as you can. Back later with the usual post-match stuff. Up Mayo.