Padden hoping not to find out that home is where the hurt is
THERE will be a homecoming of sorts for Billy Joe Padden in Mayo tomorrow when the Belmullet native pitches up in Castlebar with his new Armagh team-mates.
With just three starts for the Orchard under his belt in the league, the fixtures computer had predetermined it was time for him to return to the scene of many of the 70 appearances he made for Mayo since his debut in 2004.
Earlier this year he made the decision that the trips back home for club and county training were becoming too much and he threw his lot in with Carrickcruppen and Paddy O'Rourke's county side.
And he made the perfect announcement of his arrival when kicking the first point at the official opening of the newly refurbished Athletic Grounds in the Orchard's loss to Dublin.
He picked up more game time with his new team-mates in the win over Monaghan and narrow defeat to Down, but tomorrow will present a wholly different scenario.
Martin Carney did something similar in 1979 when he left Donegal, with whom he had won two Ulster titles, to team up with Mayo and found playing against his native county to be a surreal experience.
"It was something I was very conscious of. I found it very strange playing against Donegal, found it difficult to adjust to it.
"I had been in Mayo for five years before I joined them, but Donegal was still the team whose result I would look out for and suddenly I was playing against them.
"There was a lot of travel involved, but the commitment required then wasn't anything like what is expected now.
"Things were changing in Donegal too. The side I had come through with was just starting to break up and I saw my future, workwise and everything else, in Mayo."
Padden has settled close to Newry, but Carney's links to Mayo were more obvious. His uncle Jackie was part of the 1936 All-Ireland-winning side and he later managed the side during their back-to-back 1950-51 successes.
"I wasn't an absolute stranger to Mayo by any stretch. I was well versed in their history and tradition, but it was still strange.
"I remember playing against Donegal in a league match in my home town of Ballyshannon in 1985, that was a particularly tough, hard-hitting match."
By the time Donegal had their finest hour in 1992, Carney had long been ensconced in Mayo.
He went to that year's forgettable All-Ireland semi-final between the two sides and, in his own words, "kept the head down".
When Carney played for Donegal for the last time, he was operating in midfield alongside a gangly school kid called Packie Bonner, who would shortly become Jock Stein's last signing for Celtic.
Padden made his last appearance for Mayo when they limped out of the championship against Longford last year -- one of their darkest days in recent history.
That defeat signalled the end of John O'Mahony's second coming as manager. Incidentally, O'Mahony's daughter, Rhona, lined out for the Armagh ladies and played in an All-Ireland final in 2006 after a move north.
For now, though, a valuable league win in a highly competitive Division 1 would more than suffice for Padden.