Tomorrow afternoon the Mayo senior hurling team put their season on the line when they make the trip to Arklow to take on Wicklow in the quarter-final of the Christy Ring Cup at 2.30pm. Mayo manager Christy Phillips told the Mayo Advertiser this week that he believes that his team have what they need to make the breakthrough on Saturday and reach the semi-final of the competition for the first time in a number of years.
In round two of the competition Mayo lost out to Meath by a point in MacHale Park, that defeat sent Meath straight into the semi-final stage of the competition and left Mayo having to overcome the Garden County to make the last four.
“We were the better team for long periods on that day, we panicked a bit in the first half and lost our way, but we’ll have learned from that and benefit from the experience,” said Phillips.
It is all about getting the players to believe in themselves, he went on to explain. “The hurlers are there in Mayo, they’re a great bunch of lads, we’ve got to get them to believe in themselves and get them to show it on the field.”
Since he has taken charge of the senior team, Phillips has not been afraid to give youth its chance and it is something that he will continue with this weekend. “They are the future of hurling in the county, we’ve got to build on what was done last year with the success of the minors [Mayo won the All Ireland Minor C championship last September]. We’re lucky we’ve a number of experienced lads there too and we’re trying to blend them all in together. The lads who have come in have given a serious commitment and that can’t be questioned, they’ve given us all we’ve asked and more. We’ve been lucky that both the Connacht council and the county board have been great making sure that we had pitches to train on during the bad winter months.”
During those early days in winter, Mayo took part in the Keogh Shield competition for the first time in a number of years, and it was a great benefit to them Phillips believes. “I think it was the making of us really. It got us out there and playing games and winning competitive games which is something you can’t beat. It gave us a great base for the league, where bar one bad half in Navan and a few things going against us against Down we could have been in a league final. We carried that on against Armagh in the Christy Ring and it’s brought us to where we are now, and just one game away from the semi-finals of the competition and with that, being in with a real shout of doing something serious in the competition, everyone of the other teams is beatable.”
While they are often the minor attraction the Mayo hurlers are looking to make the break to be centre stage in the near future and they aim to get that going on Saturday.