Saturday night sees the long-awaited start of the National Football League – in which we open the defence of the title we won at Croke Park last March – but our Round 1 opener against Donegal at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey that evening isn’t the only Mayo-related action on this weekend.
Far from it. In fact, there are no fewer than three Mayo GAA matches – two football and one hurling – to choose from on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, the ladies begin their 2020 League campaign.
Let’s deal with the hurling match first. Our lads are operating in the rarified atmosphere of Division 2A once again this year, where this season that once-great hurling county Offaly are now sadly plying their trade.
With Antrim, Kerry, Meath and Wicklow also in this Division it’s likely to be a tough spring campaign for us. Round 1 is a home fixture against Kerry and that game throws in at MacHale Park on Saturday at 2pm.
At the same time over at Páirc Seán MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon, meanwhile, the county’s U20 footballers are up against Louth in the final of the Leo Murphy Cup. This is the pre-Championship development tournament we’ve been slotted into this year – last year it was the Philly McGuinness Cup – and we made it to the final thanks to draws against Roscommon and Donegal as well as a win over Derry.
The Wee County’s campaign began with a 2-14 to 1-6 loss away to Down but they then beat Tyrone at home by 1-7 to 0-7 the following weekend. A dramatic 1-12 to 1-10 victory away to Antrim last weekend, combined with Down’s draw with Tyrone, put Louth through to Saturday’s decider against our lads.
With the team named for Saturday night’s NFL opener against Donegal, there’s no need to dwell for too long on the match here. Season ticket holder? Just bring it along and get it scanned at the designated turnstiles. Ref for Saturday night? That’d be the experienced Meath official, David Coldrick.
Onto Sunday and the opening round of the LGFA NFL, in which the Mayo ladies are, like the lads, up against Donegal in Round 1. It’s a home match for the ladies, in their de facto home venue at Swinford Amenity Park. That game throws in at 2.30pm on Sunday.
Ahead of the weekend’s action there’s a fair bit of coverage that may be of interest. Some of it is general GAA stuff but there are a few articles relating to us as well.
John Fogarty in the Irish Examiner has a few interesting pieces. One is about the new football rules and how they’re set to be interpreted by refs (here), another sets out a team-by-team guide of the eight counties competing in Division One this year (here) while he also has a feature piece with Diarmuid O’Connor (here).
Three other pieces in the Irish Examiner are worth a look. Alan Foley has an article listing the players Donegal are missing on Saturday night (here), Cliona Foley speaks with Mayo LGFA manager Peter Leahy who bemoans the loss of several players to the AFL this spring (here) and Mike Finnerty has a piece on the plans new County Board Chairman Liam Moffatt laid out at the first County Board meeting since his election (here).
Over at the Mayo News, meanwhile, Mike Finnerty’s match preview is here. In the same paper, the piece by Edwin McGreal about the importance of our experienced players, that was discussed at some length on our League preview episode of the podcast, is here.
Have you listened to this bumper podcast episode yet, by the way? Oh, for shame – you can do so here. It’ll make a perfect companion for the drive north.
There’s sure to be a large Mayo following at MacCumhaill Park the next night. There’ll be plenty of flags there too, I bet. The grassroots group who major in match-day flags and banners – the Mayo Independent Supporters Club (MISC) – have plans for the new season and you can read that piece here.
A bit of sad news, I’m afraid, to end up. For years now I’ve been able to run prediction mini-league competitions, for both League and Championship, thanks to the platform provided by the Facetheball.com site. This site is, sadly, no more which means that the prediction competitions also have to bite the dust.
As this happens, I’d like to record my personal thanks to Peter at Facetheball for making the site available for so many years – eleven in all – during which time he gave all those of us who took part in the many competitions such enjoyment year after year. It was fun while it lasted and, looking back now, it lasted for a long time. Thanks for making that happen, Peter.