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Hurling is a game of inches, an inch this way and that way can decide the outcome of a game, be it from a shot for a score or a ball that slips just past a hand and there was just a matter of a few inches between Mayo and Kildare on the scoreboard and the field in this Christy Ring Cup first round clash.
Last weekend saw a phony war between the Mayo and Roscommon senior hurlers play out in Athleague, both sides knew they were going to be facing each other in the division 2B relegation play-off this weekend before a sliothar was stuck. However, Mayo did however record a much needed win against their near neighbours to send them into tomorrow evening's game with a pep in their step.
It has not gone to plan for the Mayo senior hurlers so far this season, last weekend they were beaten by Down by 17 points in MacHale Park, with the Ulster men running out 2-23 to 0-12 winners of JP Coen's charges. That defeat was the third straight loss suffered by Mayo this season, following defeats to Wicklow and Derry in the opening two rounds of the competition.
The Mayo senior hurlers head east on Sunday looking to pick up a win that will get their National Hurling League campaign back on track following their opening round loss to Derry in MacHale Park last Sunday afternoon. JP Coen's men were felled by the Oak Leaf county by the smallest of margins with the visitors running out winners on a scoreline of 1-14 to 1-13.
Seven days on from claiming the Nicky Rackard Cup in Croke Park, the Mayo senior hurlers completed the job by booking their place in the Christy Ring Cup next season with a 1-21 to 1-14 over Derry in Ballinamore.
Mayo started and finished with a bang in Croke Park on Saturday night as the claimed the Nicky Rackard Cup at the first time of asking. At times it looked like it was going away from them in the early stages of the second half, but JP Coen’s men gutted it out and ran out deserved four point winners.
"Once the dust settled on last year, we felt we let the county down and we said we had to dig in and see where we can bring this" Mayo hurling manager JP Coen told the Mayo Advertiser when we sat down to speak ahead of Saturday's Nicky Rackard Cup final. The dust he was speaking about was Mayo's relegation from the Christy Ring Cup last year.
The Mayo senior hurlers are going back to Croke Park for the first time since 2004, when they lost an All Ireland senior B championship final to Kildare in GAA HQ. This time they will be taking on Armagh in the Nicky Rackard Cup final after a hard fought victory over Donegal in Letterkenny on Saturday afternoon.
Getting relegated out of the second tier of the senior inter-county hurling championship would never have been part of the plan for Mayo, but that was what happened last year when a disappointing season ended with them dropping down into the third tier competition for the first time since the new championship gradings were introduced back in 2005. Up until this demotion Mayo had operated in the Christy Ring Cup and held their own for the most part with the sides in that competition.
The Mayo senior hurlers got their National League season off to a winning start last Sunday, when they saw off Donegal in MacHale Park in round one of the league. This year sees Mayo drop down to the Nicky Rackard Cup for their championship campaign in the summer time and we caught up with Mayo senior hurling manager JP Coen during the week to look ahead to the season and what he expects from his charges.