Sunday, April 01, 2007

U21s win; playoffs beckon if seniors do too

Our U21s got off to a flyer yesterday in their Connacht championship campaign, easing comfortably past Galway at Pearse Stadium. The defending Connacht and All-Ireland champions had seven points to spare over the Tribesmen, winning by 1-13 to 0-9. They now face the Rossies – who beat Sligo yesterday by 1-14 to 0-10 in the other semi-final – next Saturday in the Connacht decider. An early Connacht title in the bag would be nice but, with Roscommon starting to transition some of last year’s triumphant Minors through to U21, we can expect a tough battle next weekend.

And so to today’s crunch match with the Dubs at McHale Park. The weather promises to be fine and sunny, veering towards warm, and this - along with the sense of confidence now returning under Johnno’s Second Coming – should ensure that a monster crowd turns up at McHale Park this afternoon. While the roads were empty as we drove West last night, I’d expect plenty of Dublin supporters to make the trip too: indeed, we had two small Dubs travelling with us last night! With a big home support and a sizeable travelling contingent of Dubs, I’d expect well over 10,000 to turn up at McHale Park this afternoon.

Events down in Tralee last night – where Kerry and Tyrone played out a scrappy, nervous 0-9 each draw – mean that today’s match with the Dubs now has even more of a championship feel to it. Put simply, if we beat the Dubs today, we’re home and hosed as regards the playoffs. A win today would put us three points clear of both Tyrone and Kerry and four ahead of the Dubs with only one round of matches left to play. So it’s a simple message for the lads today: win this one and we’re in the playoffs.

Given the tough standard in Division 1A this year, it would be quite a phenomenal achievement to reach the playoffs with a match to spare and it’s a prize well worth going the extra mile for today. It would also represent a considerable rehabilitative feat following the traumas of last September and it would give Johnno and his team a great platform from which to launch this year’s championship campaign.

The Tralee result doesn’t, however, make the dogfight for the four Division 1 places appreciably clearer and, if we lose today, we’re still (if we also lose to Tyrone) in danger of sliding into Division 2. The one thing that is clear is that Tyrone cannot now make the playoffs but Kerry, the hoors, still can, providing they beat the Dubs next weekend while we lose both today and next weekend. That’s the nightmare outcome: we end up in Division 2 and Kerry end up in the playoffs, providing them with valuable match practice to launch their defence of the Sam. I much prefer the other scenario: paste the Dubs and we claim the playoff place ourselves today, leaving the other three, Kerry included, to scrap for the two Division 1 places on offer. Get to it, lads!

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