The pain of defeat can be hard to take for anybody, but last Saturday afternoon in Charlestown, the pain of defeat was plain to see on Mayo manager Martin Brennan who after five years in the job is stepping aside. Brennan along with Pete Finnerty had guided Mayo to the last two Christy Ring Cup semi-finals, but this year the wheels have come off the wagon and Mayo have only picked up one competitive win this season and were eliminated from the second tier national competition before May is even out. After the game Brennan said “It's over with Mayo hurling, at half time we thought we had a serious chance. We knew that Down were going to come at us, but with the extra man we really, really thought we had a chance. But whatever has happend us this year, we've been in games at half time numerous times, but I don't know what it is we've let ourselves down midway through the second half. I don't know what it is, it was the same last week we were four points up at half time and we let them back into it. It questions the whole mentality of the team are they mentally strong enough or what.”
Mayo looked to have got off to the perfect start on Saturday with Down being reduced to 14 man only four minutes into the game when Ruadhri McGrattan was sent off for striking offence. Despite the numerical advantage the men from the Mourne county were just to good for Mayo and with James Coyle in inspired from in the number 13 jersey Mayo couldn't live with them when they upped their game. Coyle finished off with a personal tally of 1-12 for the day and was the star man on show.
Down had pushed themselves into a comfortable lead midway through the first half which was capped by a fine Paul Braniff goal. But to credit Mayo they did fight back and go in the break only four points behind trailing by 1-9 to 0-8. And the opening exchanges in the second half Mayo cut the gap back to one point with a Ronan Cullinane goal leaving it at 1-11 to 1-10 with 22 minutes left. But Mayo weren't able to keep it up and a third quarter collapse saw Down run out easy winners and end Mayo's intrest in the season early.
With Mayo now out of contention for another year, Brennan thinks that it maybe in Mayo's best interests to go backwards to go forward in the future. “I'm leaving the scene now and I'm gone, but I seriously think this team needs to go down to the Nicky Rackard and win it and come up before they can compete at Christy Ring Cup level. Today tells me were not at that level being brutally honest, and that's the most disappointing thing. To be within one game of two Christy Ring finals in the last two years and Carlow they robbed us two years ago and now there playing Wexford in the Liam McCarthy Cup in a few weeks time, where did Mayo hurling go in the last few years.” Despite the initial disappointment, Brennan said he had a great half a decade with the side. “It's been a great five years and I've enjoyed every minute of it, it's a super team and it's been a honor to train a team along with Pete Finnerty and it's hard to say goodbye, we've built up a strong relationship on and off the field.”
Mayo: D O'Brien; D McDonnell (1-0 ), A Connolly, B Higgins; S Markham, K Moran, C Ryan; D McConn (0-2 ), N Murphy (0-3 ); K Higgins (0-2 ), D Dowling, S Hoban; M Devaney, C Hynes (0-1 ), B Moran (0-1 ). Subs: R Cullinane (1-3 ) for Dowling, S Hunt for Devaney, K Robinson for Hoban, J McGrath for Moran
Down: G Clarke; L Clarke, S Wilson (0-1 ), S Ennis; R McGrath, F Conway, M Ennis; A Savage (1-1 ), S Murray; C Woods, S Clarke (0-1 ), C Coulter (0-1 ); J Coyle (1-12 ), P Braniff (1-3 ), P Keith. Subs: E Clarke for Coulter, D Flynn for Murray,
Ref: A Kelly (Galway ).