The Mayo senior hurling team go into this weekend staring elimination from the championship straight in the face. Last weekend they opened their account in the Christy Ring Cup with a defeat against Wicklow.
Despite the valiant efforts of Murt Connolly’s men against the Garden county side, who claimed the league title in the division above Mayo the previous week, Mayo were not able to overcome the Wicklow challenge. Connolly’s team’s chances were dealt a massive blow early on in the contest when their talisman, Keith Higgins, aggravated a hamstring injury only 10 minutes into the contest when delivering a ball in from the McHale Road side of the pitch in Castlebar. But Connolly’s men showed that they are more than capable of mixing it with the bigger sides in the competition and pushed Wicklow all the way to the final whistle in a game that finished on a score line of 1-19 to 1-17.
On Saturday Mayo will have their final chance to progress in the competition when they host Kildare in McHale Park in the first round losers game in the competition. The Lillywhites will pose another tough test for Mayo in a game where the losing team will see their championship come to an end before May has even begun. Mayo started the season very brightly, winning the first five games of the league on the bounce before losing their last three games over the past three weekends, and defeat on Saturday is just not an option for them. The past two defeats against Roscommon and Wicklow were by tight margins and a small improvement could see them over the line on Saturday. Connolly will be hoping the likes of Stephen Broderick can keep up his scoring return from frees, while the likes of Ronan Cullinane, Eoin Madigan, and Niall Murphy will be expected to lead the line. At the back the full back line of Brian Higgins, Gerry Henry, and Aidan Connolly, who have been performing well of late, along with Derek McConn will need to be on top of their game if Mayo are to see off the challenge of Kildare and maintain their interest in the championship into the summer months.
Juniors open up their account for the year
There will be a new look to the Mayo junior side this year as for the first time in more than 20 years Billy Fitzpatrick will not be in charge of the side. The man who will be wearing the bainisteoir’s bib this evening against Leitrim is former Moy Davitts manager John Kelly. Kelly has a very strong hand to pick from for this evening’s game in Aghamore in the Connacht championship and has selected a number of familiar names in his starting 15.
The full forward line features former Mayo senior inter-county man Michael Conroy alongside Swinford Jack McDonnell and Colin Dempsey in a potentially high scoring unit. Parke’s Simon Cloherty, who was such a large part of his side’s success in both the Mayo and Connacht junior championships last year, lines out on the half forward line, with James McAndrew from Cill Chomain and Bonniconlon’s Alan Egan completing the half forward troika. The midfield sector will be manned by Michael Forde and Peter Collins and there will be a strong Achill representation in the half back line with Denis McNamara and Colm Cafferkey manning the line alongside Dermot Costello. Islandeaday’s Ollie Feeney will be wearing the number three shirt with Tom Staunton and Conor Cawley patrolling the corner back berths beside him, with Swinford’s Conor Campbell in goal. Tonight’s game will throw in at 7.30pm in Aghamore in what promises to be an exciting encounter in the east Mayo venue.
Mayo in for Kiltimagh challenge
On Sunday, Mayo supporters will be able to keep an eye on James Horan’s Mayo senior side’s preparations for their championship opener against London at the end of May, when they take on Antrim in a challenge game in Kiltimagh at 2.30pm. Sunday’s contest could see the return to the green and red jersey of Trevor Howley and Donal Vaughan, who both took part in club action last weekend after coming back from injuries. With a full round of club league games taking place the night before in the top divisions, Horan will be hoping that his players come through the round of club games without any new injuries as he builds towards the start of the championship. With Keith Higgins out of the game and potentially the trip to London after he damaged his hamstring with the hurlers last weekend, Sunday’s game will offer the opportunity for a number of players to audition for a place on the starting 15. Alan Dillon, who was named last week as the Mayo captain for the year, is likely to be out of the game also after he missed his club’s game last weekend with an ankle injury. Other players nursing knocks include Ronan McGarrity, Seamus O’Shea, and Castlebar players Richie Feeney, Alan Feeney, and Neil Douglas who all were unable to line out with their clubs last weekend.