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Walsh’s underdogs go for glory

Sport

UP FOR THE MATCH Mayo hurling manager Derek Walsh. Pic: Conor McKeown


Preview

Mike Finnerty

THE Mayo seniors have ‘nothing to lose’ in next Saturday’s Christy Ring Cup Final against Kildare at Croke Park — but won’t be going to Dublin ‘to make up the numbers’ either.
That’s according to Mayo manager Derek Walsh who masterminded a sensational semi-final victory over Derry last weekend in Castlebar that has earned his team a crack at the championship title.
Kildare, who beat Mayo by 30 points (5-26 to 0-11) in the opening round of the competition last month, have been installed as raging hot favourites to be promoted back up to the Joe McDonagh Cup just a year after being relegated.
But Walsh — who led Mayo to Nicky Rackard Cup glory last season — feels his team have every chance of springing an upset if they perform to the best of their ability.
“Understandably, Kildare are favourites, they’ve won all their games fairly easily in the championship, and they’re coming down from the Joe McDonagh [Cup],” he told The Mayo News. “But we’re not going up to make up the numbers next weekend either.
“When we beat Wicklow and London that took all the pressure off, because we were safe in the Christy Ring Cup and that’s where we believe Mayo hurling should be.
“So we have nothing to lose next Saturday. If we have a performance like we had against Derry then I don’t there will be much in it.”
The Ballyhaunis native was thrilled with the manner of Mayo’s narrow win last Saturday.
“We should have been more than four or five points up against Derry at half-time but we showed great composure in the last ten minutes, we never panicked,” he explained.
“The lads stuck to the task and we thankfully got over the line.”
Mayo failed to win a match in the National League and were relegated to Division 3 after losing a play-off to Wicklow. They have also lined out this season without the likes of Cathal Freeman, Michael Morley, John Cassidy, Seán Regan who were all regulars in 2021.
All in all, it’s been a tough season but the recent revival has lifted spirits in the Mayo camp.
“For such a small hurling county to lose the calibre of those lads wasn’t easy,” admitted Derek Walsh.
“But the three lads [Joe Mooney, Gerard McManus and Joe McManus] coming in [under the parentage rule] has been a big help, and we’re a well-balanced team now.
“The whole league was tough, but the most disappointing thing for me was losing to Wicklow and being relegated. We thought we were better than them but we missed too many chances, and that was a bitter pill to swallow.
“Being relegated isn’t the worst thing in the world for Mayo hurling because we’re going to have a lot of young lads coming through next year.
“As long as Mayo are playing championship in Christy Ring, young lads can aspire to play at that level. We have the numbers at underage, it’s about bringing them through to senior level.”

Fixture

Christy Ring Cup Final
Mayo v Kildare

Saturday, May 21
Croke Park at 5pm

 

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