Old rivals get ready to do battle again

One was once the name to beat in hurling for years and the other has taken up that mantle and is going in search of its sixth Mayo senior championship in a row. The TJ Tyrell cup has wintered in Tooreen 26 times in the past, but it has been ten years since it last headed in that direction and since 2008 he has made his home in Ballyhaunis. On Sunday in Ballyhaunis at 2pm both sides will meet once again in the Mayo senior hurling championship final.

The showpiece of Mayo hurling will see JP Coen (Ballyhaunis ) and Jackie Coyne (Tooreen ) pit their wits against each other on the sideline in the east Mayo showdown. In last year’s final Ballyhaunis just got the better of the same opponents by a point on a scoreline of 1-14 to 0-16 and a similarly close contest on Sunday would go down a treat with the east Mayo hurling hardcore.

However in the round robin stage of the competition earlier this year, Ballyhaunis ran out comfortable winners on a score of 2-18 to 1-7 so a big improvement will be needed by Tooreen if they are to take back the Mayo crown for the first time in a decade.

Ballyhaunis will be able to call on the skills of Keith Higgins to lead their charge, while brother Pierce Higgins is also a focal point of the team. They can also call on the experience of players such as Donal O’Brien, Stephen Hoban, Hugh McKermitt and Stephen Hoban for their cause. For Tooreen, much of the attention will be on the ‘returned from Australia’ pairing of Stephen Lenehan and Stephen Coyne, who will give Tooreen a major boost ahead of the game, while Cathal Freeman and Kenny Feeney are other players they will be looking to, that could have a major an influence on the encounter.

Like a lot of clubs both sides have been shorn of a number of key players over the last few years due to emigration, with the likes of Stephen Hunt, Kenny Robinson, Niall Murphy and Michael Walsh all familiar names to Mayo hurling supporters who aren’t in action this year for a number of reasons. Hopefully Sunday’s meeting will be as close as last year’s final, and when it comes down to the crunch it is hard to look past Ballyhaunis picking up another title come full time.


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