Mayo on the road to redemption

GAA: Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final

Pointing for success: Mayo will be looking for Kenny Feeney's point taking ability to help them over the line tomorrow. Photo: Sportsfile.

Pointing for success: Mayo will be looking for Kenny Feeney's point taking ability to help them over the line tomorrow. Photo: Sportsfile.

Getting relegated out of the second tier of the senior inter-county hurling championship would never have been part of the plan for Mayo, but that was what happened last year when a disappointing season ended with them dropping down into the third tier competition for the first time since the new championship gradings were introduced back in 2005. Up until this demotion Mayo had operated in the Christy Ring Cup and held their own for the most part with the sides in that competition.

But when all was said and done, being in the Rackard Cup this year has given the Mayo senior hurling team a shot at redemption, and a shot at getting a day out in Croke Park in the final of the competition, if they can get over Donegal on Saturday afternoon in O'Donnell Park in Letterkenny.

Mayo had a great start to their league campaign and looked to be well on the way to a place in the final of that competition thanks to three wins from three in their opening three games including a win at home to tomorrow's opponents Donegal, along with impressive away wins against Meath and Down, before they lost their last two games to Wicklow and Armagh.

They have ripped through the Rackard Cup over the past number of weeks with wins against Tyrone and Armagh back to back putting them straight into the semi-final, while their opponents had to come through three games after losing to Armagh, before seeing off Fermanagh and then Longford to reach this stage.

When the sides met back on Valentine's Day, Mayo held out for a 1-14 to 0-13 win to kickstart their league campaign, while Donegal went on to lose every one of their games including two relegation play-offs that sees them drop to division 3A for next season.

In the Rackard Cup, Mayo have hit the ground running and put up some impressive scores today, hitting 4-19 against a Tyrone side that put it up to Mayo early on, and then scoring 0-22 against Armagh (a side they could meet in the final, due to the backdoor arrangement in the competition, in a few weeks ). Mayo have also been boosted by the return to availability of Fergal Boland and David Kenny for the first time this season, after the duo's involvement with the Mayo u21 footballers ended when they claimed the All Ireland title three weeks ago. Keith Higgins is also expected to be available to manager JP Coen despite Mayo's football clash with London coming up, with Coen saying previously that an agreement was in place that Higgins would be available for all the hurlers championship games this season if fit.

Coen will be looking for big performances from all his players with Kenny Feeney, Cathal Freeman, Sean Regan, Joe and Ger McManus, Brian Hunt, Eoghan Collins, Austin Lyons, Ciaran Charlton, and Ciaran McDermott all expected to step up to the plate in a big way on Saturday. With the carrot of a place in an All Ireland final and a game in Croke Park up for grabs along with taking another step back up the grades, Mayo will be looking to hit the ground running on Saturday afternoon.

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