After a fortnight’s break, National League action resumes for the lads tonight with a tough assignment down south. Unbeaten Kerry provide the opposition in this Round 6 fixture, with throw-in scheduled for 7pm at Austin Stack Park in Tralee.
It’s difficult enough to mount a credible case in favour of our chances of putting a halt to Kerry’s gallop tonight. Their young guns come into tonight’s game with five wins from five starts, their confidence rising and their swagger becoming more pronounced with each successive win they’ve bagged. By contrast, our great start to the season has now been tarnished by successive defeats to Dublin and Galway, which means we’re likely to bring all manner of self-doubt with us on the trip to Tralee.
Kerry have every right to be confident that they’ll add our name to the list of counties they’ve vanquished in this Division One campaign. While all of their wins have been tight margin ones they’ve managed to seal the deal every time, wriggling out of a variety of tight spots in the process. Our inability to finish off Galway when we have them by the throat the last night, meanwhile, shows that we don’t have the same efficiency in that department.
But, for all that, and despite the undoubted fact that this assignment is a more-hope-than-confidence one, our cause this evening is far from hopeless. Eleven of the team named to start tonight were on the field at some point the day we beat Kerry fairly decisively in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final replay, with a number of those likely to be on the bench in Tralee tonight – such as Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan, Andy Moran and maybe even Cillian O’Connor – having played a major part in that epochal win.
So, swagger or no swagger from the fresh-faced home team, our lads are unlikely to be fazed by the challenge they face. We shouldn’t expect them to be cowed either by facing Kerry in Tralee, not least given the big support we’ll arrive with ourselves, not to mention our strong recent record at the venue.
Hand on heart, though, I still think Kerry are more likely to prevail tonight. They’re on a roll in this League campaign – it’s their best ever League start since 1965 – and we’d need to raise our performance level a fair few notches to compete fully with the kind of display they’re likely to lay on. It would be a surprise – albeit a very nice one – if we prove capable of trumping what they bring to the table.
The fact that – weather permitting – we’ll have a much better idea before throw-in about what, if any, relegation peril remains extant following this afternoon’s Galway/Roscommon match is also relevant in thinking about how our match will go. I’m not sure we’re all that pushed about making the Division One final and so, if Galway win and as a result extinguish whatever relegation worries we may have had, that’ll mean we’re sure to take the field in Tralee in a more carefree frame of mind. Would that harm or hamper our chances? To be honest, I haven’t a clue.
What I do know is that, sadly, I won’t be there myself tonight. Getting to this game didn’t fit with my plans for the long weekend, though I will be following the action closely on the live TV broadcast. It’s not quite the same, of course, but it’s not a bad back-up option either. I won’t be doing a post-match audio report on this one – I reserve that service for matches I go to – but I will be able to get the match report and the MOTM poll up fast enough after the final whistle has sounded in Tralee.
Safe travelling to all those heading south for what promises to be a lively contest this evening. It’ll be a tall order to get a positive result in this game but the lads have stood tall plenty of times in the past and they could well do so again tonight. Here’s hoping they do. Up Mayo.