With all the fun and excitement around the Mayo exodus to New York, with Mayo Day celebrated with such gusto over there yesterday, it’d be easy to forget about the game itself. Not today, though, as the focus zooms into Gaelic Park where, at 2.15pm local time (7.15pm back here), the ball will be thrown in to start our 2019 Championship campaign.
This is a game that, self-evidently, we should win with ease. Indeed, it’d be a shock of rather seismic proportions were we to fail to do so. Under Justin O’Halloran’s management, New York have made themselves tough to beat – and they deserve great credit for this – but this meeting between the newly-crowned National League champions and a team that has only played A v B internal training matches this year, whose ranks have seen significant player turnover from last year, can logically only go one way.
The priority for us today should be to put the result beyond doubt as early as we can and with the minimum possible fuss. We need to ensure that we don’t give them any chink of light in this contest, no hint at all that this might be the underdog’s day.
From a playing perspective, getting the result is clearly the objective today. The unique atmosphere over there, the strange playing surface and the rather surreal nature of the occasion all mean that we shouldn’t be looking for anything more than a win that ensures our place in the provincial semi-final three weeks from now. That outcome should be well within our grasp.
It’s a big day in particular for James McCormack, Matthew Ruane and James Carr, all of whom are set to make their Championship debuts in New York today. Here’s hoping all goes well for the three of them.
Today’s Championship opener for us closes two significant gaps in time from our perspective. The first is one that has stretched to just over ten months, back to our last Championship outing, which was against Kildare in Newbridge. While we’ve put significant distance between ourselves and that cathartic defeat in the time since then, it’s good that today the team begin the job of writing a new Championship chapter for themselves.
A far longer period of time has elapsed – a bit over four years and eight months – since James Horan was last at the helm for us in a Championship match. It always felt as if James left unfinished business behind him after the trauma of Limerick, a sense that has been given further substance in this year’s League campaign.
Lookit, he’s back and this is Game 1. We know what we need to do. Let’s go do it. Up Mayo.