It’s now or never for the Mayo hurlers on Saturday afternoon in Charlestown in the Christy Ring Cup losers play off against Down. Last weekend Mayo were kicked out of the front door of the competition by Wicklow in Arklow, the garden county ran out 1-19 to 2-12 winners over Mayo thanks in the most part to a strong 15 minute period in the second half where they hit run of unanswered points.
Mayo manager Martin Brennan is hoping that his side can recover from that defeat in the space of a week or it’s curtains for the year for the Mayo hurlers in the championship in only the second week of summer.
“It’s last chance saloon for us on Saturday in Charlestown, there’s no more second chances. We probably underestimated Wicklow a bit going into the game, but they got the run on us and deserved the win.”
Jonathan O’Neill was the main man for the garden county against Mayo scoring 12 points, 10 of those from frees and silly fouls by Mayo according to the Westport based manager. “Jonathan O’Neill hit 12 points over the game, he got the vast majority of them from placed balls. He’s an excellent free taker and we committed too many silly personal fouls within scoring range and when you do that you’re just giving them the score. We talked about being disciplined before the game, and some of the lads will have to look at themselves before the next day.”
Mayo’s poor run in the league saw them without a competitive fixture for a number of weeks while Wicklow were coming off a league final the previous week and Brennan believes that this counted against his side. “We haven’t had a competitive game for five or six weeks before that, while they had a league final. We did play a number of challenges but that competitive action gives you and edge so hopefully we’ll be able to pick it up again from last weekend against Down in Charlestown.”
The performance the last day doesn’t represent Mayo at their best, Brennan believes. “There is another 20 per cent to 25 per cent in this side from the team that played last week. Playing a championship game will give them that bit more sharpness and the lads know themselves that they have to do it on the field or that’s it done for the year.”
Down, who defeated Mayo in the semi-final of the competition last year before going on to lose to Carlow in the final, will represent a big challenge for Mayo on Saturday and Brennan hopes that Mayo can make home advantage count. “They are a serious side, we know that, we saw it last year when we played them. But we have home advantage this time and they are the side who will have to make the long trip down to face us compared to last year when we had to make the trek up to their patch.” Getting the home venue will be a advantage to Mayo and Brennan is glad that they have it and that it’s not been fixed for McHale Park. “Playing at home can only help you, and I’m kinda glad it’s not been fixed for McHale Park. That’s a big wide open pitch and would have suited Down’s play, where as in Charlestown the lads will feel more at home and we can create a bit of an atmosphere with the supporters which would be lost in a place like McHale Park.” On the issue of supporters Brennan would like to see a large Mayo turnout on Saturday and encourages everyone to come along. “I’ve been saying it for years, but we still get small crowds. It would be great for the lads for a good crowd to show up on Saturday, but it just doesn’t seem to happen. But our supporters who come to our games are great and last year against Westmeath in Westport they made it a real home venue atmosphere, so hopefully they can do the same again in Charlestown.”
As for this weekend’s opponents Brennan knows it’s going to be tough but is confident his side have it in them to pull out the win. “We’ll have to go out there and give it a go, the lads know they are capable of beating Down, I don’t know that they are as strong as they were last year. Kerry made the long trip up last weekend without Shane Brick and won well. They lost and we lost, we’re both in the same boat. We’ll have to wait and see when they come down here what Down team travels to Mayo.”
Mayo will have a full strength panel to pick from for Saturday’s game and Brennan was playing his cards close to his chest if his side was going to see any changes from last weekend’s outing.