Mayo hurlers look to get Rackard off to winning start

GAA: Nicky Rackard Cup

From snow to sun: James Gallagher in action for Mayo in the league against Westmeath earlier this season.

From snow to sun: James Gallagher in action for Mayo in the league against Westmeath earlier this season.

Plying their trade in the Nicky Rackard Cup is not where the Mayo hurlers want to be come championship time, but that is where they find themselves this year, after being relegated from the Christy Ring Cup last season.

They open their account this weekend in a competition they won back in 2016, when they make the trip to Omagh to take on a Tyrone side who plied their trade in the league two divisions below them during the Spring, and will be expected to take home the points to get their championship up and running with a win.

Mayo manager, Derek Walsh, isn't taking anything for granted though. Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser this week, he said: "We are looking forward to it, the coin has probably flipped a bit from the league where nobody was expecting us to win games, but we did enough to stay in a tough Division 2A.

"But we are not taking anything lightly at all, we will do our work and have ourselves prepared to play our own game and have our tactics right and we have been working hard in training over the past while since the league. We haven't had many challenge games with only being able to play them on days in the middle of the week and with lads all over the place, it's not easy, and also rounds of the football league and championship on."

Mayo have added two more players to the squad since the end of the league, with Ciaran Kiely and Ciaran McDermott joining, but they have lost the services of Brian Morley who has gone playing soccer with Sligo Rovers - and they also have Kenny Feeney back in full training after the Tooreen sharpshooter missed the league campaign injured, though he is not expected to take part in this weekend's competition.

Getting back to the Christy Ring Cup is Mayo's aim for this season, but it is not going to be easy, Walsh said, saying: "Look, we are disappointed that we were relegated last year from the Christy Ring Cup, we'd feel that we are good enough to mix it with the sides at that level. But is not going to be easy, the sides in this competition might be perceived as being at a much lower level because of their league status, but they are good sides. The last time we played Tyrone in this competition they were five points up in the first half until we woke ourselves up and won that game."

As for the starting side that Mayo will have out on Sunday, it will be a different looking one than Mayo have fielded in the championship in recent years, Walsh said. "We could have as many as six or seven championship debutantes on Sunday, we will go on form and the lads are under no illusion that if the boys are going well in training they will get in and if they don't perform on the field, they will be replaced. There are a number of young lads there working very hard to get into the starting line-up and if they are good enough, they are old enough."

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