The Mayo senior hurlers cemented their place at the top of the division 2B league table last weekend with their second tough road win on the bounce seeing off Down by 0-20 to 0-16 in Newry last Sunday. That was JP Coen's men third win in a row, but it came at a big cost he told us this week.
"It was a tidy win thank God, we got over the line well in the end which was great. It was a tough game though, it came at a bit of a cost with a few injuries, so that took a bit of the gloss off of it in the end. Sadly Joe McManus, he got a broken elbow in the game and he had surgery on Wednesday morning and had to have a pin inserted into it, so he's more or less gone for the rest of the season. He was one of the key men we'd brought in this year, it was a cruel blow to lose him like that. He had fitted in perfect, like one of the locals. He sent me a picture of his cast there, he got them to put green and red on it, that will tell you how much he had bought into the whole thing," he said.
It was the first time that Mayo had picked up a win in the Mourne county for a long time and something that was special to the players who have taken a few beatings there over the years, Coen said. "Speaking to a few lads after the game who've been around a while and they had never got a win up in Down before, so it was great to finally do that and come out from a tough game against a good Down team with a win and two more points on the board. The way the lads have been working we were always in with a chance, we got ahead at a vital stage in the first half and never looked back at all. We didn't play spectactular, but it was a real workmanlike performance from all the lads that played on the day, and you have to have games like that where you dig and grit it out to get a win."
Seeing off the challenge of Down to back up their win the previous week against Meath was important to show that the win over the Royals was no fluke, the Mayo manager believes. "It was great to add that to the Meath victory, because there would have been a few people looking at the Meath win and thinking that was a shock, but we've backed that up now with another good win and showed we're serious about this."
Kenny Feeney's headline performance was one of the main talking points after the game, and while Feeney is well known for his free taking abilities it was his overall play that really impressed Coen. "Kenny did hit a patch of form that he's been flying in between the Meath game and that game, but it wasn't just from frees it was from play, but he'll be the first one to say that it's all about the team effort that makes these things happen. But his overall play was top class the last day, when the scoreboard was running dry a bit at times he popped up with some great points from play to keep us moving along nicely."
As for this weekend Mayo host Wicklow on Sunday lunchtime as the undercard to the footballers league meeting with Kerry, and despite the fact that Wicklow are currently winless in the league, Coen expects a tough challenge. "We won't be taking anything for granted, they are just starting to get themselves together, they have been getting better each week if you look at how they've been doing. They're one of those teams for Mayo over the last few years that have been sticky, and they are good stickmen all of them, and Martin Storey has brought a new edge to them and it will take him a while to bed in no more that it took us. We won't be taking anything for granted and the fact we are top of the table will count for damn all come throw in."
A win on Sunday would put Mayo in a very strong position to claim a place in the league final with one game to go after Sunday's encounter, and that is something they are very much focusing on achieving. "The big carrot is a place in the league final, and if we can get two points on Sunday it will put us very close to a league final which will be a great achievement for us and this group of players," said Coen. "This bunch of lads have worked tirelessly over the last few years and it will be great for them if they can make a national final, that's the push we'll be putting on them so they can get over the line. It's a very tight league, so there's nothing for granted, we've got ourselves safe in the league, that was phase one of the plan and now we've to look at phase two which is pushing on for a final spot and going on again the next step. We'll do everything we can to get there, when you've got this far you've got to keep reaching for the next level."