“You can’t take anything from that game against Roscommon on the first day of the league. It was a long time ago, everyone’s first game, and there were a few lads sent off for what were really nothing challenges,” Mayo manager Murt Connolly said this week when asked about his side’s previous encounter with Roscommon having any bearing on the outcome of this Sunday’s National Hurling League Division 3b final.
It has been all action for Mayo this season since Connolly took charge of the side, only a couple of weeks before the start of the league. Until last week’s game against Monaghan they had gone through the league undefeated. Going into the game with their place already assured in the league final Mayo took their eye off the ball and got beaten by a hungrier Monaghan side. “We didn’t go into the game to take it easy,” said Connolly. We wanted to win, but we were down a few lads with injuries and other things, the lads probably just took their eye off the ball a bit during the game, and fair play to Monaghan they came out and took it to us and won.”
Mayo do have a number of injuries going into Sunday’s game and Connolly knows that it will be tough to replace them. “We’ll be missing Adrian Connolly at full back and Patrick Connell at centre half back, who will be big losses. We are also waiting to see if Keith [Higgins] makes it back from the knock he has, if he is to miss out it will leave a be a big hole in the spine of our team, but we have the lads there who are hungry for it and ready to come in.” One positive injury note for Mayo last weekend was the return to action of Eoin Madigan as a second half sub. “We were without him for the past couple of weeks and he was able to come on in the second half and play 20 minutes or so. For a guy who was out for a while you’d expect him to be slow to the pace, but he picked it up straight away and knocked over a few points for us.”
While picking up a league title would be a nice end to the spring, there are far greater challenges in the very near future. “We’re going all guns to win the league, it would be great, but we also have the Christy Ring Cup in the very near future. With a couple of the lads who are injured if it was championship, you might be inclined to chance them in the game this weekend. But we’re away to Wicklow in the first game Sunday week in the Christy Ring. Championship is the real deal and always has been. Wicklow away is going to be a very tough game, they’ve had a good league run too and are in the division 3a league final against Derry.”
After two good years of building and progressing, last year was one to forget for the Mayo senior hurling side. A poor league run was followed by a bad display in the Christy Ring Cup. So far this year things have gone better than could be hoped for and Connolly is happy to have been involved with the team. “It’s been great so far, you can see the hunger the lads have when they go out on the field, we’ve brought in a few new lads and everyone is working hard to be as good as they can. So far it’s been great.” Mayo will play Roscommon in Carrick on Shannon in Páirc Seán Mac Diarmuid with throw in down for 2.30pm.
Mayo team v Roscommon: D O’Brien; S Connell, S McConn, G Henry, M Morley, S Morley, B Higgins; C Freeman, K Higgins; N Murphy, S Broderick, K Feeney; D McTighe, D McDonnell, R Cullinane.