MURT CONNOLLY will be back in the Mayo hurling hot-seat for 2012 and feels that he has unfinished business to take care of after a less than inspiring campaign this year.
A trip to the National Hurling League Division 3B final was a rare highlight for Mayo in 2011 and, although they lost the decider to Roscommon, there were certainly positives to be dissected from the Spring campaign.
But they were unable to carry that form into the Christy Ring Cup where defeats to Wicklow and Kildare ended any hopes of a prolonged stay in the competition. Connolly wasn’t papering over the cracks either and admitted that the championship performances weren’t good enough.
“The championship was disappointing,” the former Galway hurler told The Mayo News.
“In fairness we probably could have got something out of the Wicklow game but we were well beaten by Kildare and at half-time in that game I certainly feared the worst. I thought it might be an annihilation. They really taught us a lesson.
“But fair play to the lads, they dug deep in the second half and showed a bit of pride in the jersey. We could have rolled over completely but we didn’t.”
That was a trait that impressed the Mayo boss. He had caught the bug and the positive vibe he received from the players has prompted him to give it another shot.
A tough draw in the league won’t make life easy, but it’s the championship that the Castlegar native has his eyes firmly fixed on.
“It’s not going to be any easier this year,” admitted Connolly. “We have Kerry and an improving London side to contend with. With emigration the way it is you would imagine that they would be very strong. They have senior players from Cork and a few other different counties so they would be a team to fear.
“It was a learning curve this year but hopefully we can make more of an impact in the Christy Ring next summer. That’s the aim.
“On our day, and with a full panel of players to pick from, I think that we are a match for any team in the competition. But keeping players fit is the key. We were plagued by injuries last term and that cost us dearly.”
Mayo’s 2012 campaign could hinge on whether dual star Keith Higgins is available for selection and, while Connolly accepts that football will once again be his number one, he is willing to play him whenever he can commit.
“Keith is a fantastic hurler, the best we have in the county, and it would be great to have him all the time. But he will be with the footballers first and foremost and I would imagine it will be a similar situation to the last few years with Keith. I’ll take him whenever I can get him.”
Last year’s trainer John Butler has left the backroom team but Ciaran Hynes has stepped in and Connolly is delighted to bring him on board.
“Ciaran has been with Westport for a number of years and he certainly knows his stuff. John just couldn’t commit for another year but Ciaran is a great fella to have. Christy (Phillips), who was with me last year, is another good fella to have involved.”