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The Mayo senior hurlers get their National Hurling League campaign under way on Sunday, when they head north to take on Donegal in their opening game in Division 2B of the league.
There is one thing for sure about Sunday’s National League game against Tyrone and that is Mayo will not be underestimating the challenge facing them when Tyrone come to town.
When I woke last Sunday morning at 6.30am to find an inch of frozen snow covering the entire landscape around Charlestown I immediately thought there was no way I could travel to Killarney in these conditions, but I had to as I had the radio equipment in the boot of my car and without it no live broadcast of the much anticipated game could take place.
Keith Higgins got his tenure as the permanent Mayo captain off to a winning start in Killarney on Sunday, while he was happy to get the points the Ballyhaunis native isn’t getting carried away just yet.
Now it starts to get real. While the championship is the ultimate barometer of success in Gaelic games, a successful league campaign is the foundation stone of what happens in the white heat of summer fare.
Let the battles commence. With the greatest respect to the FBD league it all starts in earnest for Mayo on Sunday when they travel to Killarney to take on All-Ireland champions Kerry. The FBD league did show one thing, that Mayo are a little bit behind in terms of preparation after succumbing to a well prepared Roscommon outfit in the final game.
In what was a battle of black and blue in Killarney, Mayo started their national league campaign by showing their respect for Kerry by forming a guard of honor for the All Ireland champions when they entered the field.
Following Mayo's defeat to Roscommon in MacHale Park for the first time since 1986 in the FBD League on Sunday afternoon, it's all eyes on Mayo's next game against Kerry in the opening round of the National Football League on the first Sunday in February. Speaking after the Roscommon game, joint Mayo manager Pat Holmes said that his side have a few injury worries still to clean up ahead of the contest. “Injuries are clearing up and we're hoping that Keith Higgins would be back playing football next weekend. Aidan O'Shea is a wee bit away and Ger Cafferkey has a back strain, so were getting closer to a full panel. We're happy from that point of view” he said. As for the two most experienced outfield players in the panel Andy Moran and Alan Dillon, it will be a bit further into the Spring before we see them in green and red he said, “They will be more long term, they won't be playing football for the next month or so anyway.”
New Mayo captain Keith Higgins and Aidan O'Shea may not be back in action for Mayo until at earliest their league opener against Kerry in three weeks time. Speaking after Mayo's win over IT Sligo in James Stephens Park, Ballina on Sunday joint Mayo manager Noel Connelly when asked about some of the more experienced players yet to return to action for Mayo this year and were there any injury concerns over them said:“A few niggly ones, Keith Higgins is coming back from a hamstring injury, Michael Conroy picked up a strain on the hamstring last Sunday. A few of the others, (like) Aidan O'Shea is just getting back in training, so maybe one or two of those guys would be only there or there abouts for Kerry, but certainly would be ready for the home game against Tyrone you'd be hoping to pull from all of those seasoned players.”
Not long after they had overseen a win in their debut contest as the joint managers of the Mayo senior football team, Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes came out of the dressing room to speak to the local press corp in the concrete tunnel under the bowls of the stand in Elverys MacHale Park.