Photo: Memories thru a lens
While the vast majority of the blog’s readers will be shuffling to find their seats tomorrow in MacHale Park ahead of Mayo’s football League tie against Tyrone, a small band of fellow Mayo GAA enthusiasts will be getting ready for the throw-in of the NHL Division 2B hurling final. This takes place 100 miles away at Breffni Park in Cavan where Down are the opposition for the Mayo hurlers for the second week in succession.
The clash of these two Mayo fixtures tomorrow has meant that this rare NHL final appearance for the county has almost gone unnoticed. It’s a pity but these are decisions which have become the norm for lower league hurlers due to recent seasonal adjustments to the fixture calendar. Nearly every weekend now is a double round of NHL/NFL fixtures so, to all intents and purposes, the dual player has become an extinct species.
So back to the hurling final and what an achievement it has been so far for Derek Walsh’s men to qualify for their NHL Division 2B decider with a game to spare. That surplus match was used last Sunday in Portaferry to give committed fringe players a chance to impress and if one new player emerges from that encounter then the practice will have been worthwhile.
Mayo went under to Down by 3-19 to 0-14 in last Sunday’s match but anyone could have predicted that outcome in advance, knowing that Down had to get a result to ensure a final slot.
Down is a funny hurling county. All of the starting fifteen on the Down side come from the only three hurling (and GAA) clubs based in the Ards peninsula.
Out there they don’t play football, with Ballycran, Ballygalget and Portaferry the only outlets for GAA athletes from the peninsula. There are other hurling and dual clubs on the mainland, but none appear to have the interest or the history that the Ards sides possess.
In a sense, their make-up will be very similar to the Mayo selection, with Tooreen, Ballyhaunis and Castlebar making up nearly all of the Mayo panel. For both sides, this tight-knit make-up brings a feel of a club side to the county team, which has its benefits in getting the best of the players at the manager’s disposal.
So onto the game itself. Mayo were afforded the luxury of holding their hand close to their collective chests last week while Down were forced to show all their trump cards. This gives Mayo the advantage going into this Breffni Park meeting but, at the same time, the Mourne men would not be expecting to lose to Mayo.
It makes for an intriguing battle on the sideline, with a real championship feel to this winner-takes-all affair. There won’t be a whole lot in it in the end, and don’t rule out a draw after normal time.
History could be made also in that this game is a ‘Finish on the Day’ affair, with a free-taking competition to be used to separate the sides if they’re still level after extra-time. Now that would be some way to win a League title and promotion at the same time …
Let’s hope the lads are practicing their frees! Best of luck to them at Breffni Park tomorrow.