AFTER WEARING THE green and red of Mayo more than 70 times over the past seven years, Armagh forward Billy Joe Padden will get his first taste of life on the other side of the fence later on this afternoon.
The Mayo men who were once team-mates will do all in their power to stop him in his tracks; those who once roared him on from the McHale Park sidelines will be actively rooting against him.
It will certainly be an unusual afternoon for the 28-year-old but there is a definite sense that he has no regrets about his decision to trade Belmullet for Carrickcuppen.
Though his father Willie Joe was one of Mayo’s favourite sons, Padden Jr.’s allegiances have always been slightly more complex.
Winner of a Sigerson All-Star while at Queen’s University in 2004, Padden met the love of his life while living in Armagh. Once he had married and settled, the frequency with which he was required to make a four-hour commute became all just a little too much.
Despite the convenience of playing his football much closer to home, leaving Belmullet was not an easy decision for Padden to make as he explained to the Mayo News earlier this week.
As he settled in Carrickcruppen, however, he quickly realised that the tight-knit GAA community was the same no matter where he chose to ply his trade.
I think you know that the GAA people are the same the country over. It was very different for me to leave my own club in Belmullet. I played underage football there, I have many friends down there.
Then when I came up here and joined Carrickcruppen and joined the Armagh panel, everyone has been very welcoming and I’ve really enjoyed it so far, everyone has been very nice.
One man who has been delighted with Padden’s decision to move north is Orchard boss Paddy O’Rourke who has included Padden in his starting fifteen for each of Armagh’s league fixtures to date.
The forward has become such an important feature of his squad that O’Rourke is expected to name him in the starting line-up again this afternoon, despite the distractions which will inevitably be presented by his “homecoming” of sorts.
If the boss has any worries about his selection, however, Padden is quick to put them to rest. Once he steps out on to that pitch, it will be time for business.
My focus will be on the game itself as every match presents its own challenge.
The dressing room I come out of is not a factor for me.
Mayo vs. Armagh, McHale Park (2:30 pm)