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Wed, Oct
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This is going to be different

Sport

SHOWING HIS COLOURS Mayo supporters like Willie Murphy from Parke will be unable to attend inter-county matches in the weeks ahead as they are being played ‘behind closed doors’. Pic: Conor McKeown

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

SO seven months later than advertised, Mayo get to play Galway in the National League.
And we’re living in a very different world now than we were last March.
There’s no doubt that next Sunday’s game is going to be a weird one for all concerned, not least because there will hardly be anybody there in Tuam Stadium to see the match unfold.
Plus, both teams are going in cold with absolutely no idea of where they stand.
Just look at some of the freakish results we’ve seen in the Premier League over the last few weeks; teams have had so little time to prepare properly and there are no formlines so you could definitely see some unlikely results in the last two rounds of the National League.
One thing we know for sure though is that Galway go into next weekend’s game under no pressure while Mayo need to get a result. That will probably add a bit of tension to things and there’s also a curiosity among the rest of us to see how things are going to play out.
One of the things that players won’t be looking forward to is having their match-day routines around things like the dressing-room completely changed. They’re used to being dry, warm and in their own sanctuary whereas now they could be in a marquee in a car park with the rain lashing down.
You’d be amazed at how that will annoy players, because they are creatures of habit and like the home comforts you get in a changing room, especially during the bad weather.
Having no crowd there is definitely going to impact on the atmosphere and tension in the ground, but there will still definitely be an edge. Galway have done very well against Mayo over the last few years and they will definitely want to keep them in their place.
Galway are a team that I think are going to be very dangerous in wet, heavy conditions. They’re physically strong, it will suit their defenders who may not be the best on hard ground, Damien Comer is a good ball-winner up top and they have plenty of ball-winners around the middle. Throw Padraig Joyce into the mix and you can see why so many people are so sweet on Galway.
As for Mayo, it’s impossible to know what sort of shape they are in until we see them on Sunday. But Brendan Harrison and Jason Doherty, who have both picked up knee injuries, are going to be huge losses in the weeks ahead.
A lot of people have been asking me how I’d feel about the prospect of playing county football during a global pandemic, if I was 15 years younger, of course!
Honestly? I don’t know.
When I was playing inter-county football it was the most important thing in my life. Luckily I didn’t have to focus on too many other things; basically do my day job and try to be the best footballer I could for my club and county.
If I was still playing during this incredibly unique situation I think I’d probably still have that desire to live that way, and I’d be single-minded in my desire to play for my county at a high level and improve as a player.
But when you sit back and look at it as a retired player, married with kids, you probably think that it’s slightly unnecessary to put people at risk. If a player has somebody at home who is vulnerable and they want to limit their exposure, you’d have to understand their decision if they want to opt out.
Most players though will be attracted by the prospect of playing a run of games over a few weeks and they will just want to take it week by week and see where it takes them.
I know it would have been an incentive for me if I was still playing.
But right now I’d be delighted to be able to just watch some football over the next few months.

Time will tell if leagues get to play out
THE GAA are determined to make decisions as late as possible, and that’s totally understandable considering the way things change from day to day with the virus.
Personally, I’m ambivalent enough about the decision to press ahead with the National Leagues. We all know after the last six months how difficult it is to plan ahead for anything — weddings, communions, holidays, you name it. .
Things have been changing literally the night before some events.
So I can see why the GAA wanted to leave it as late as possible. At the same time, apart, the teams who can get promoted and relegated, what is the point in finishing out the leagues?
Alright, it will provide entertainment for people watching them but I believe that the whole idea of competitive advantage will be impacted on over the next few weeks.
Because you’ll have players in county panels all over the country — like Fermanagh at the moment — who will lose preparation time because of an issue in their camp. And not just that but one team not being able to prepare properly will then impact on other teams in their division. So for me it calls into the question the ‘competitive fairness’ of the leagues.
Some people may say that will be no different to the Premier League in the months ahead, but there’s one key difference — they are a squad of professional players put together by a full-time organisation and run as a business.
Inter-county squads, on the other hand, are just plucked from the ordinary population.
And there’s no doubt though the GAA public do think it’s strange that it’s full steam ahead at the moment given the rising case numbers across the country.
Only time will tell how it’s all going to play out, but there’s no doubt that we all just want everyone to get through it safely, in full health, and in one piece.

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