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There couldn't be a much tougher task for JP Coen's Mayo senior hurlers if they are to have any interest in championship hurling beyond the middle of May tomorrow. James Stephens Park in Ballina will be the venue for the meeting of Coen's side and last year's Christy Ring Cup champions, Kildare, in the winner takes all round 2b clash. Mayo lost out to Derry in Owenbeg a fortnight ago by two points, while Kildare were finally defeated by London in a replay in St Conleth's Park in Newbridge last weekend. Both sides finished level after extra time in the Emerald Grounds in Ruislip the week before, when Mayo were going down to Derry.
Ballyhaunis GAA club are most certainly on cloud nine at the moment. I can only imagine how tough it is trying to keep the hurling and football teams fresh as they are playing every other week. In all, 10 or so players are representing both teams so some serious negotiating has to be going on between the managers to make sure that the players are fresh for whichever code is on the following weekend. Their hurlers had a fantastic win last Sunday in Athleague and this Sunday it’s the footballers’ turn against tournament favourites St Croan’s in Hyde Park at 2pm. Kiltane’s victory over Boyle last year in Castlebar means it’s an away game for Ballyhaunis. I don’t imagine club officers would have it any other way and love the predicament they are in. Any time you are training for championship matches after the October Bank Holiday weekend means you have at the very least secured a county title for your club, and with wins for both the footballers and hurlers already in the provincial series it can only mean there will be a real adrenaline rush attending training. I experienced it twice as a player; it brings such a feel-good factor around your town or parish to be involved in the championship when the evenings are short. Players are probably and deservedly getting a little spoilt now, gear bags, training tops and polo shirts are more than likely been sponsored and to top it off they are probably been treated to some grub after training, which is ideal for the bonding of the group, that never happens unless you at least win your county title. Ballyhaunis will need to be on top of their game to win in Roscommon.
The first Mayo man I met early on Monday morning in the staff room just nodded at me. Smiled a sheepish, bashful smile, shrugged his shoulders, looked a tad embarrassed, and said nothing. And he was right. Because, unfortunately, there was nothing to say.
This Sunday at Tuam Stadium (2pm) Killererin will hope to finally add to their two Connacht titles won in 1976 and 1978.
Ray Silke asks three different local hurling aficionados who they think will be victorious on Sunday at Pearse Stadium and why.
We were not at all surprised last Saturday evening when it took extra-time to separate these two near neighbours in a keenly-fought and exciting county semi-final.
How they perform against the current All-Ireland champions will tell us a lot about the real progress being made under Liam Sammon, and a win, especially up there, would do wonders for team morale and put the team in a good position going into a month with four consecutive games.
1. Adrian Faherty – Claregalway