Mayo make long trek to Monaghan to get Rackard campaign up and running

GAA: Nicky Rackard Cup

The Mayo senior hurlers will get their championship campaign up and running tomorrow afternoon when they make the long journey to Clontibret to take on Monaghan in the first round of the Nicky Rackard Cup.

It will be almost eight months since Derek Walsh's side have hit a sliotar in anger in a competitive inter-county game, since their last league outing all the way back at the beginning of March.

They have been busy on the challenge game circuit along with internal sessions over the past few weeks playing Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon in challenge games as they try to get their eye-in ahead of the start of the championship this weekend.

The Rackard Cup - like all other inter-county competitions - has been shaken up due to Covid-19 - there will be no promotion from the competition this year and that is something that will be a disappointment to a Mayo side who would have fancied their chances of winning and stepping back up to Christy Ring level next year.

There are eight teams in the competition with three games this weekend and Tyrone receiving a bye into the next round of the competition ahead of the start.

Things have been going well in the build-up, according to Mayo manager Derek Walsh, who told the Mayo Advertiser this week that: "We started back the first weekend we could after the county final and we had three challenge games and we had an in-house game there last Sunday and everyone is chomping at the bit to get going now. We played well in the three challenge games, so hopefully we can bring that to Monaghan on Saturday."

The necessity of having to change the normal logistics of how Mayo have prepared for the game and how they will get to the game due to Covid, will also see the whole squad making the long trip in their own cars. "We felt it was better to drive up ourselves rather than putting 20 lads on two buses for six or seven hours, so we'll drive individually and there are a few brothers and stuff that can travel in the one car so they can swap over, but it is the way we felt it best to go.

"It'll be up and down straight on the day, tough on the lads' bodies and legs - but we just have to plan it right and this won't be an issue for the lads, they will be all set for it."

While there is no promotion from the competition this year it's still one they want to win, Walsh added: "All we can do is hope to win it, it is an All Ireland competition at the end of the day and we want to win it, last year was disappointing the first game cost us and that is where our preparation has been focused, to make sure it doesn't happen again."

While it has been many years since Mayo played Monaghan in a hurling game and they were playing two divisions below Mayo in the league, Walsh knows it's not going to be an easy game for them: "Monaghan have nothing to lose, they will throw the kitchen sink at us - they are a team I don't know that much about, one that we didn't come across for a long time."

Mayo travel more or less with a full squad to pick from but they have kept the numbers tight since returning to training to avoid any Covid complications.

"We made a decision to keep the squad small because of Covid and keep our bubble as tight as we can, we'll be going with 26 players there were two or three back from injury at the weekend and we have one long-term out - Sean Regan, so bar that, we have a full roll to pick from," Walsh said.


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