“No one remembers who wins the league, it’s all about the championship at the end of the day” were the words of Mayo manager Martin Brennan this week ahead of Mayo’s first round clash with Wicklow in the Christy Ring Cup in Arklow on Saturday afternoon.
Mayo are coming off the back of a very poor National League campaign where they only picked up one win out of five games in Division 3A and they are heading to the east coast to take on a side who just won the Division 3B title last weekend. Since Mayo’s interest in the league ended they have been working hard on the training field and Brennan believes they are ready for the challenge ahead of them. “We’ve been working hard and had a good training weekend in Dublin, and played a good game against Na Fianna, during the week we played Roscommon in a challenge game and got a good win, the lads have turned a corner and will be ready to go on Saturday.”
Keith Higgins will be back in situ with the hurlers tomorrow after he returned from an injury picked up playing for the footballers in the league and Brennan is delighted to have him back. “Keith will be lining out at full forward tomorrow, he’s not 100 per cent fit, but he’s probably around 85 to 95 per cent fit. We moved him into full forward in the second half against Roscommon during the week from the wing and he hit five points from play and it’s great to have him.”
Brennan does not see the poor league that Mayo have had counting against them on Saturday as it has been the same way for the past couple of years. “It’s more or less been like that for the last three years, we’ve had a bad run in the league but come on strong in the championship. I’d rather though be playing tough games and losing against sides in division 3A than beating poor teams in division 3B.”
Wicklow are going to pose a big threat tomorrow and Brennan is not underestimating them, but he thinks that Wicklow will be coming into the game on a high and will underestimate Mayo’s challenge due to their poor run in the league. “They are going to be really on a high on Saturday after their run in the league and they’ll fancy themselves for it and probably look at us and our league form and think were on a downer. But our lads are up for it and will be ready for action and take the game to them. It’s going to be a tough physical game and we’ll have to be ready to square up to them in every corner of the field.”
Brennan will not be naming his side until after training on Friday evening, but he did reveal, along with Higgins lining out at full forward, that Ciaran McGrath will miss the game with a hamstring injury.
The competition this year sees teams who win their first two games, get a home semi-final spot, while those who lose in the first round this weekend will get a second chance to get into a quarter final in the competition. And there is only one place Brennan wants to be playing next weekend and that is in the winners section, “going through the front door is the only way you want to go and get a home semi-final.”