Mayo have promotion in their own hands

GAA: National Hurling League

All to play for: Cathal Freeman and his Mayo team can seal promotion and league title on Saturday with a win over Kildare. Photo: Ciara Buckley.

All to play for: Cathal Freeman and his Mayo team can seal promotion and league title on Saturday with a win over Kildare. Photo: Ciara Buckley.

The Mayo senior hurlers are back in action on Saturday afternoon in MacHale Park after a few weeks break from games.

When they headed home from Ballybofey three weeks ago, having been beaten 4-18 to 0-13 by Donegal, it looked like their chances of getting promotion back up to Division 2A were all but gone.

But results have fallen in their favour since that outing. Currently Kildare sit top of the division with six points after their three wins from three, with Donegal in second place on four points, with two wins from four - ahead of Mayo on the head-to-head rule, following their win in Mayo's last outing.

However, with Mayo sitting out the last round of games - due to there being five teams in the division - Donegal were unexpectedly beaten by Derry 3-22 to 3-21 in what was their fourth and final game.

That means that if Mayo can get a win on Saturday against the Lillywhites - they will overtake Donegal on points in the table and go level with Kildare on points, and even though the Leinster men have a far superior scoring difference than Mayo, a victory for Derek Walsh's side would see them claim the league title and promotion up a division - thanks to the head-to-head rule, where if two teams finish level on points, it is the winner of the meeting of those two sides that finishes ahead of the other.

It is going to be no easy task for Mayo – Kildare have more than comfortably beaten all that have come before them so far this season – beating Roscommon 4-25 to 0-10 last time out, to back up their 5-17 to 1-14 win over Derry and 4-29 to 0-10 demolition of a Donegal side that beat Mayo.

But with just 70 minutes and it all to play for, along with the best part of three weeks to pick out what went wrong against Donegal - Mayo know that it is in their own hands in this one.

While Mayo will be disappointed with how they fared against Donegal - there are a number of caveats to that loss, with Walsh making a number of changes to his side in the lead-up from the ones that faced Derry and Roscommon, while captain and talisman, Keith Higgins, missed the game following a late withdrawal.

Kildare are probably playing a division below their own standards in the league. They won the Christy Ring Cup last year, beating Down in the final, on the same day that Mayo lost the Nicky Rackard Cup final (a grade below the Ring Cup ); and they are getting ready to enter the second tier of the hurling championship this season, the Joe McDonagh Cup, where they will be facing Carlow in a few weeks time.

But Mayo have the players and ability to put it up to Kildare. They met as recently as three years ago in the Christy Ring Cup, where Kildare edged Mayo out narrowly – a loss that contributed to Mayo getting relegated out of that grade of championship hurling to one they are still trying to escape from.

With their own championship season coming down the line soon and a chance to gain promotion straight back up to Division 2A - Mayo will be ready to leave it all on the line on Saturday afternoon.

 

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