The ambition of Mayo senior hurling manager Derek Walsh before the start of this season was pretty simple. It was all about getting the best Mayo hurlers out on the training pitch and taking it from there.
The Ballyhaunis man has managed to do that and more. Having booked their spot with a game to spare, thanks to their win over Wicklow last Sunday, Walsh is now looking forward to the division 2B league final.
First they will make the long trip north to take on a Down side that will be hungry for victory following a shock defeat to divisional surprise package Donegal in the previous round. But with this game being a free hit for Mayo, it could offer Walsh a chance to run the rule over some of his panel who have not had as much game time.
“We have not thought that far ahead,” said Walsh after Sunday’s game. “ All we’ve done is concentrate on today . But the lads who have come on in the games have done every bit as good as the guys who have been starting the games.
“It has been unfortunate we have not been able to play all of them, but next weekend may be a chance for them to show their stuff, and they might start the league final if they take a chance they get.”
The heart and desire shown by Mayo in their four games so far this season is the most pleasing thing Walsh has seen on the field.
“I said after the Derry game they showed character. We are still learning and we are still building that bit of character as we go along.
“They could have dropped their heads there today, and maybe in previous years we did drop our heads in games we could and should have won, but there is something a bit different.
“They didn’t panic they just stuck to the game plan and kept going and it worked out in the end.”
Last Sunday’s win over Wicklow was billed as the biggest test Mayo would face this far and it proved to be as they were forced to come from behind late on to grind out the win.
Walsh was particularly happy to get that win.
“We are delighted with our performance, we knew Wicklow would be our sternest test to date, and it would show us exactly where we were.
“We knew we were improving and that Wicklow were that bit ahead of us last year. We are very happy with the performance especially in the second half. Our work rate, our tackling, hooking and blocking was excellent. We are delighted to get the win and get into the league final and long may it last.”