NEW Mayo hurling manager Murt Connolly took charge of his first training session on Saturday and is targeting promotion from Division 3B of the National Hurling League.
A member of a family steeped in the small-ball game who “eat, sleep and drink hurling”, he is an uncle of Mayo full-back Aiden Connolly. The new boss has attended “a good few of the matches” since his nephew first donned the green and red three years ago, but is still getting to know the players in his charge, 27 of whom were togged last weekend.
“We’re going to take the league very seriously, because we should be higher than Division 3B,” he told The Mayo News. “Mayo are a better team than that. And the Christy Ring … that’s the main carrot. That’s where we see ourselves and where we want to be.”
Mayo face Wicklow in the opening round of the All-Ireland championship, but before that, will meet Roscommon in the first of their National League matches on Sunday, February 13. The first of Mayo’s physical sessions will take place tonight (Tuesday) in Ballyheane, with a wall-ball session to follow in Tooreen on Thursday.
Pádraig Pearses, the Galway side which beat Ballyhaunis in the Connacht Intermediate Championship final last November, will provide the opposition for a friendly next Saturday. That game will, Connolly says, “give us an idea of where we’re at”.
Connolly, who is based in Carrowbrowne, on the Galway-Headford Road, has appointed John Butler as a selector. The Birr man was worked extensively in Galway and was involved with the Tommy Larkins team which reached the All-Ireland intermediate hurling final in 2008, as well as the St Michael’s side which contested the football equivalent a year later. A local selector – “somebody with a bit of local knowledge” – is also due to be appointed by the Mayo Hurling Board.
The youngest of seven brothers, Connolly won an All-Ireland club medal with Castlegar in 1980. He takes over the Mayo job from Westport’s Martin Brennan, who who was in charge for the past four seasons and guided the team to back-to-back Christy Ring Cup semi-finals in 2008 and 2009. Brennan’s successor is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“I’ve been in dressing rooms and listening to managers and watching different styles all my life,” Connolly concluded. “And I have my own ideas on how it should be played. To impart them to the players now is the job.”