Hurlers one game from Rackard final

GAA: Nickey Rackard Cup

On the ball against the Orchard County: Mayo will be hoping Keith Higgins can have a big influence on Saturday against Armagh in the Nickey Rackard Cup semi-final. Photo: Sportsfile.

On the ball against the Orchard County: Mayo will be hoping Keith Higgins can have a big influence on Saturday against Armagh in the Nickey Rackard Cup semi-final. Photo: Sportsfile.

The Mayo senior hurlers are 70 minutes away from booking a spot in the final of the Nickey Rackard Cup for a second year in a row.

Derek Walsh's side made their way out of the group stages of the competition with wins over Donegal and Leitrim; however, by topping their group and progressing straight to the semi-finals, they have been without a game for the past three weeks - something that Walsh sees as actually counting against Mayo in the end, telling us: "It is nearly a disadvantage topping your group. I know it probably gave us a chance to clear up a couple of injuries, but we lost a couple as well - you shouldn't be penalised for topping your group, I don't think - giving us three weeks without a game is a penalty in itself."

They will also be up against it as they go into the game without one of their key marksmen, Shane Boland, who picked up a straight red card in their last outing against Leitrim, which has ruled him out of contention for this game - they'll also be without a number of players who have picked up season ending injuries in the past few weeks.

Armagh were narrowly beaten by Tyrone in their only group game on a score of 1-18 to 1-16, which sent them into a quarter-final against Leitrim last weekend and that was a game in which they laid down a serious marker of intent, by hammering their opponents 7-25 to 1-21.

Speaking this week, Mayo manager Derek Walsh said the three-week break was not ideal preparation for an All Ireland semi-final: "Far from ideal, especially with Armagh having a game last week. We had a game last Tuesday, but look it is not the same as playing a championship game and we've had a few amongst ourselves, we're just trying our best to prepare as best we can, that is all we can do."

Armagh will represent something new for Mayo to face, with it being a number of years since Mayo played them, he added: "A couple of us went to see them play last weekend and we saw them play Sligo in the league, I wouldn't know too many of them, it is years since we played them, probably three or four years and they have changed a good bit. They put up a huge score against Leitrim, they will give us plenty to think about anyway."

As for those who will be missing on Saturday, it will make it even harder for them, he added: "We didn't appeal (Shane Boland's red card ); we had the video of it but it didn't show the incident; you need to be able to prove it didn't happen and we couldn't do that. Corey Scahill and Daniel Huane are out for the year. Corey has a broken wrist and Daniel a broken collar bone from the Leitrim game, so they are gone and we have a few more injuries we are not sure about. We will give one or two right up to the wire if we can, we are stretched a bit, but I'm sure every team is the same."

At the start of the season Walsh said he wanted to use the year to strengthen the panel overall this year and it has proven to be the case they needed that panel. "We've 32 lads including the ones that are injured at the minute, we came back after a heavy defeat against Donegal (in the league ) and probably the best lesson we ever learned. Look it is an an All Ireland semi-final and there will be no holding back on Saturday, it will be shoulder to the wheel on Saturday and try and get a result against Armagh."

 

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