It was a very strange league campaign for Mayo in division 2B of the national hurling league. They were unbeaten against the top two teams in the division yet only managed to finish in fourth place in the table out of six teams. The league campaign was bookended by impressive wins over bottom of the table Roscommon and eventual table toppers Kildare at the very end of the league stages. Both those wins of course did feature the talents of Keith Higgins who, as has become the norm in recent years, is balancing life as an inter-county footballer for one of the top sides in the country, and as the captain and leader of an inter-county hurling team a nice bit down the food chain when it comes to the small ball game. In between those two wins, Mayo held a fancied Meath side to a draw in Castlebar, before being beaten on the road by Armagh and overseas by London.
Tomorrow afternoon the Mayo hurlers will get their Christy Ring Cup campaign underway against a Down side who will be joining them in division 2B of the league next season. The Mourne county men finished at the foot of division 2A this spring picking up only one point from their six games. That point coming from a 2-11 to 0-17 draw at home to Wicklow at the start of March. Over the course of the league they succumbed to heavy defeats to Carlow and Kerry while they ran both Derry and Westmeath close.
This weekend marks the start of the competition which sees the eight second tier hurling sides in the country go head to head in a competition that will hopefully see Connolly’s Mayo play the next five games in the next six weekends all the way to the final in Croke Park.
Mayo do come into the game on the back of their impressive win against a very tough Kildare side in their last competitive game. Kenny Feeney was the man of the moment that day scoring 11 points for Mayo, 10 of them from dead balls and that kind of return will be something Mayo will need on the field tomorrow. With Higgins also available again, following the footballers’ conclusion of their interest in the league, he will be able to take over the captain’s role probably from the middle of the park. Cathal Freeman is another man who has impressed in the centre half forward line and the fleet of foot Tooreen man will be a key player in Mayo’s attack, along with Stephen Hoban who bagged the all-important goal, to go with three points from play in that win over Kildare. At the back Aidan Connolly, Adrian Brennan, Shane Morley, and Darren McTigue will be key to keeping the Down attack in check.
Mayo met Down in the competition as recently as 2010 when the Ulster men travelled to Charlestown and put a 3-19 to 1-12 beating on a Mayo side in a backdoor game to send Mayo crashing out of the competition and end the tenure of Martin Brennan and Pete Finnerty who in 2009 and 2008 had brought Mayo to the semi-final of the competition. The action gets underway in McHale Park at 2.30pm and all support for the Mayo hurlers as they start out in the championship would be appreciated by this dedicated group of players.