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James Horan has named the same 15 to start tomorrow’s All Ireland quarter final against Down as started last month’s Connacht final victory over Sligo. The starting 15 was released to the media and the general public shortly before lunchtime yesterday and despite much speculation that there could be a couple of changes at least to the side Horan has stuck with the same 15 who took to the field in Hyde Park.
The last time that the Mayo hurlers made a trip across the water to take on London in competitive action they made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when they missed their flights back from the UK capital. And less than two months on, the gods that governed the draw for the second round of the Christy Ring Cup ensured that Mayo would have to make that trip all over again.
It was a very strange league campaign for Mayo in division 2B of the national hurling league. They were unbeaten against the top two teams in the division yet only managed to finish in fourth place in the table out of six teams. The league campaign was bookended by impressive wins over bottom of the table Roscommon and eventual table toppers Kildare at the very end of the league stages. Both those wins of course did feature the talents of Keith Higgins who, as has become the norm in recent years, is balancing life as an inter-county footballer for one of the top sides in the country, and as the captain and leader of an inter-county hurling team a nice bit down the food chain when it comes to the small ball game. In between those two wins, Mayo held a fancied Meath side to a draw in Castlebar, before being beaten on the road by Armagh and overseas by London.
Mayo may well be the bookies’ favourites to win Sunday’s All Ireland semi-final clash against Down, but the favourites’ tag is something that Ray Dempsey has never paid much heed to as an inter county player and as an inter county manager since he took the reins of the Mayo minor side in 2008. The Knockmore man who brought last year’s batch of minors to within seconds of claiming Mayo’s first All Ireland minor title since 1985 last year, is once again only 60 minutes away from the last Sunday in September and an All Ireland final day out in front of a packed Croke Park.