The Mayo senior hurlers will take on Armagh in the second round of the Nicky Rackard Cup tomorrow afternoon in Ballina when they take on Armagh, as they look to book a spot in the semi-final of the competition. Last weekend Mayo opened up their Rackard account with a 4-19 to 0-17 win over Tyrone, but it was very hard fought encounter, as manager JP Coen explained. "It was just bad play and a bit of complacency. We hadn't played a competitive game in a good while, probably the journey too didn't help — it's a lot further than you'd think for a bus journey — that coupled with a small bit of rustiness and it took us a while to get going. In fairness to Tyrone, they came at us at a good tempo and they did very well. While we might have looked to be playing badly, we had a few bad wides that could have had us in front at the break, but we found our range in the second half and took it from there."
After a sluggish start Mayo really hit the ground running in the second half to see off the red hand challenge. "Four-10 was a fair auld score to hit in the second half and when you look at it, we probably scored that in a 28 minute period, so from that point of view it was pleasing. The sending off shook us a bit in the first half too and it took us a while to get used to that. Once we got in at half time and we regrouped we understood a bit more how we had to play and the second half went very well for us," said Coen.
The introduction of two subs for Mayo had a massive influence on the game, the Ballyhaunis man explained. "Joe (McManus ) had an injury over the last few weeks and hasn't been able to get on the pitch as much as we'd have liked. He threw in a massive display when he came in and it just shows the massive quality we do have. When you see the likes of him chipping in with 1-6 after five or six weeks out and then you've Corey Scahill coming in and getting 1-1, he linked up really well with Shane Boland and he set up a few points from the half forward line."
When Mayo played Armagh in the league a few months ago the Orchard county came out on top with an impressive display, but Mayo didn't show their true worth on the field in that encounter, Coen said. "The big thing we took from that game walking away from the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, we knew we were beaten by a better team on the day, but we also knew that we didn't preform on the day, but we didn't play to our potential at all. If we can get a performance like we did in the second half we'll do really well."
A win will put Mayo into the semi-final of the competition and will give them time to bring back in a few players who've been tied up with u21 footballers this spring for the rest of the competition, he added. "If we win it's into the semi-final, and if we lose it's the quarter-finals. The only way we want to go is through the front door of this competition and it will give us a week or two off to get ready for the next round of it. We'd also have Fergal Boland, David Kenny, and Morgan Lyons back with us for the first time really this year, when they finish with the u21 footballers on Saturday. It'll only add to the competition for places, we've the lads who are playing in Dublin and Galway who have club championship games going on at this time of year too."
Mayo were also able to call on Keith Higgins last weekend and will again this time around, and having the dual star available is something that will only boost their chances of winning this contest. "We'll have Keith again on board on Sunday all things going to plan, the agreement that was made at the start of the year was that he would be available for all our championship matches as long as he was fit and healthy. He played very well the last day and did a lot of good work. People might have forgotten last week that Keith was back with us, but he's just coming back from injury so it takes a while to get up to game pace and for the touch to come back. He'd be frustrated himself with parts of his performance against Tyrone because the standards he sets for himself are so high and he feels that he didn't reach them. We said, patience is needed and to remember you just had 70 minutes on the hurling field for the first time in a while."