The Mayo senior hurlers will face another trip across the Irish Sea after their National Hurling League clash with London was called off last Sunday due to a frozen pitch in McGovern Park in Ruislip.
The timing of the re-fixture is far from ideal for Mayo, who will now have to play four weeks in a row to round off their league run; having the game fixed for a Saturday will also cause complications, according to Mayo manager Derek Walsh: "It has been fixed for Saturday, March 9; we had looked for it on the Sunday but that is the date the CCC came back with - it now means not only will we have to travel again, but lads will have to take a day off work or a half day to make sure that we get over there in time."
The trip to London did see the squad enjoy bonding time together, which is no bad thing, according to Walsh, but he also said he felt it could have been called off earlier than occurred. "It was a good trip for us, we went over there on Saturday morning and we went to Ruislip as soon as we got there and then spent the evening together. But everyone knew that the the temperatures were going to keep dropping since the middle of the week and there was no chance the game was going to be played on Sunday - with the way the sun rises behind the stand it was never going to thaw out in time - it could probably have been called off earlier in the week and saved us the trip over."
There are 12 players from last year's panel not involved with the hurlers this year - but Walsh is delighted with the commitment and desire shown by the players who have stepped up to the squad for him. "We have 10 or 12 under 21 lads in with us, we were back training since November and we needed that to get the lads up to the level you need in terms of strength and conditioning to hurl at this level. It's not like football where lads come in with three or four years on a development panel with that kind of work done", he said.
The step-up in level of opposition that Mayo will face during the league is a big test, but they showed their abilities with their draw against Meath in round one, where they came back from six points down early in the second half and it will not get any easier for Mayo as they move through the rounds.
"It's a massive step up, but it is a brilliant testing ground for us - if the lads can bed in at this level for two or three years it will soon become second nature to them hurling at this level. We've Kerry next - a county that has made great leaps and bounds over the last few years and will be in contention for the Joe McDonagh Cup this summer, never mind the league," added Walsh.
Mayo are without three players due to long-term injuries, with marksman Kenny Feeney not expected back until the championship in the summer, while Walsh is hopeful that Eanna Ryan and Eoin Rowe will be available at some stage during the league.