Mayo face stiff opening test against Donegal

GAA: Nicky Rackard Cup

Stretching Shane: Mayo's Shane Boland stretches for the ball against Kildare in their last game. Photo: Ciara Buckley.

Stretching Shane: Mayo's Shane Boland stretches for the ball against Kildare in their last game. Photo: Ciara Buckley.

Mayo won't be heading into the unknown on Saturday afternoon when they open their championship account in the Nicky Rackard Cup.

They will be making the long trip to Donegal to take on a side who have beaten them twice in the past number of months in big games, with Donegal taking the scalp of Derek Walsh's side in both last year's final of this competition and in the league earlier this season.

Mayo had won two from two in the league before they headed to Letterkenny in round three, where Donegal saw them off by 17 points - but Mayo bounced back in their final game in the league, putting in a very strong showing against eventual league winners, Kildare.

Walsh is in no doubt how big a game it is going to be and he will be going into it with less than a full deck to pick from, he said, stating: "It's a massive game, hopefully we will be able to put a few wrongs right, we have a good few injuries at the minute and will be missing about eight or nine from our squad I'd say."

Not available for action for sure are key men Cathal Freeman, Stephen Coyne and Conor Daly, but, as Walsh explained: "We are still pretty hopeful that we can transfer the lessons from the last day we played them. We have a strong squad and we've been saying for a while how good it is and now is the chance for those lads who are going to get the opportunity to show how strong they are."

Mayo finished off their league season against Kildare a fortnight ago, where they really pushed the Leinister men, who will be playing two levels ahead of Mayo in the championship this Summer - only for the Lillywhites to see them off down the home straight.

Walsh will be hoping his side can take a lot from that performance, as he noted: "The first half I thought was a step-up from anything we played all year. When you look at the opposition, nobody got within touching distance of them all year and yet we were eight points up against them.

"Look, maybe it took a bit too much out of us in that first half, but we had been targeting that for two weeks before it and we had asked for that in the first half and we got it - so we'll be looking for the same against Donegal the next day and be able to put a second half together."

That showing against Kildare has given the team as a whole a lift, despite the loss on the day. "We're delighted about how we performed, because we were so despondent about the game before when we were heading out of Letterkenny - they put in a huge effort since then. You have to look at the Kildare game, they won the Christy Ring last year and were deserving winners of it - they were the best team in it.

"I'm delighted for the lads that they got the performance after all the work they had put in. Even with the injuries, the lads now have their chance and it is up to them to take it."

Nicky Rackard Cup: Donegal v Mayo; Letterkenny, Saturday, June 26 at 2.30pm.


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