T minus 5 hours

ALMOST there now. The weather is near perfect here in Mayo and the anticipation ahead of championship has TIALTNGO chomping at the bit. So far we’ve been watching championship from afar, be it in Cork, Portlaoise or Ballybofey. And some of us have even went far – to New York – to witness Mayo’s opening tussle.

But there can be no doubting the fact that Mayo’s season starts today. The freshly cut grass, the pint bottles in the beer garden, the long stretch in the evening. Soak it all in – it’s championship baby!

I’m only wondering now how I’ll pass the next few hours. I guess buying the papers to run the rule over their previews will be a start. I wonder what Mayo players have been interviewed? I’ll soon know.

It’s important too to line the stomach with ‘a proper fade of food’. The smell of a full Irish is wafting in from the kitchen and all is well with the world.

Only thing is, all the joys of championship aside, a part of my brain is nagging at me that this ain’t quite gonna go to plan. I think it’s perfectly set up for the Rossies. They’ve a good run out under their belts from Leitrim, they’ve that bit of momentum whereas we honestly don’t know our best fifteen. We’ve only one proven scorer at this level – Dillon – in our forward line and we’ve two very attacking minded wing-backs who could do worse than to remember their primary duty (and in Andy’s case to learn how to tackle).

I’m not saying that we are going to lose. But we might. I certainly do think it’s going to be a battle and I hope and expect the Mayo players will be ready for that.

So much depends on two of the full-forward line. I think we can take as red that we’ll get a performance out of Aidan O’Shea – it’s great to have such confidence in a young lad – even if Roscommon target him intensely. But Barry Moran and Aidan Kilcoyne have to give us a performance. The ball has to stick inside and the ball has to be used well inside.

If they aren’t playing well then it becomes easy for Roscommon to simply attempt to limit O’Shea’s performance. But if they are flying then the Rossie full-back line will be in a world of trouble.

And also a lot depends on our midfield – Heaney and McGarrity. McGarrity is capaple of greatness in games but fades out a lot too. Heaney is one of our legends but he hasn’t played competitively since we lost to Tyrone in last year’s Qualifiers. We can’t say that we’ll dominate here.

All that being said we have Tom Parsons on the bench with a point to prove and his inevitable introduction, perhaps midway through the second half, should be a huge boost.

Defensively I can’t but worry about Andy Moran having to pick up Gary Cox. Its not an ideal role for Andy because we don’t really want him on the back foot but he probably will be in trying to mark Cox.

I better go and, like Jimmy Two Times in Goodfellas, ‘get the papers, get the papers’. A verdict before I go. A tight battle with Mayo’s bench hopefully proving crucial. Parsons, Mortimer and possibly Ronaldson coming on to make a difference  at the end. Mayo 1-12, Roscommon 2-7.

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