The prevailing narrative for some time has been that our 2019 League Division One campaign starts with a nice, handy opening fixture. Roscommon’s impressive five-point win over a strong Galway line-up in this afternoon’s FBD League final, however, sounds a timely warning about our taking next Saturday evening’s match for granted.
Next Saturday’s League opener should never, of course, have been seen as any kind of gimme fixture for us. While Roscommon spent last spring in the League’s second tier, they ended that campaign as Division Two winners and they then went on – unlike ourselves – to qualify for the inaugural Super 8s in the championship.
Last year may not have been an unqualified success for the Rossies – with Kevin McStay parting company with them after the championship – but it was far from a disaster either. They won far more matches than they lost in 2018, a boast we were unable to make about last year.
The other factor which should give us reason to pause ahead of next Saturday night is, of course, our appalling record at MacHale Park. We’ve forgotten how to win at home – we lost all three games at Castlebar in last year’s League, with our most recent success at the venue (in normal time) coming as far back as the 2017 Connacht championship quarter-final meeting with Sligo.
It was probably for this reason that James Horan was so upfront when he spoke to the media – including his interview with the Mayo News football podcast – shortly after his reappointment as manager and identified the Roscommon game as one he’d be targeting. Any team that wants to progress needs to be winning its home games so a victory at MacHale Park against a neighbouring county in Round 1 of the League was an obvious one for James to aim for.
It still is. Points will, as always, be tough to collect in Division One this year so a positive start to the League will be important for James Horan and his team. Today’s FBD final win by Roscommon, though, merely goes to underscore the truth of the assertion that nothing comes easy in the top division of the NFL. That’s not going to change at MacHale Park this coming Saturday evening either.