It was a case of contrasting fortunes for the two Mayo teams in action today. The county’s U20 footballers got their Leo Murphy Cup campaign off to a positive start by beating Sligo by six points but the hurlers were beaten by two points away to Fermanagh in Division 3A of the NHL.
The hurlers’ current predicament is fairly well known at this stage. In normal circumstances, the side is backboned by players from Tooreen. They contested the All-Ireland Intermediate final just a few weeks back, however, and they understandably need a break, having played virtually the whole of 2022 and into the start of this year without one.
In their absence, the county has had to start this year’s NHL campaign with an extremely inexperienced set of players. The team lack nothing in terms of heart and effort but, inevitably, the step up to inter-county level is a tough one to negotiate.
The lads did extremely well to salvage a draw last weekend against Roscommon but this afternoon they came unstuck against Fermanagh in an entertaining tussle at Ederney that ended 2-18 to 2-16 in the Ernesiders’ favour.
We looked to have the upper hand – albeit ever so slightly – in this game until midway through the second half. In a free-scoring opening period, Adrian Phillips shot home two goals for us and the Green and Red (who were wearing the new alternative kit so it was in actual fact a case of loads of red and not a whole lot of green) went in two points in front.
As the second half progressed, however, the visitors increasingly lost their way and when Jimmy Toomey connected with a long ball in and flicked it to the net, Fermanagh retook the lead, this time for keeps. We shot a few wides after that but we had a goal chance at the death, the ‘keeper’s despairing stop from sub Kealan Gallagher ensuring the home side held on to win.
Down the road at ATU Sligo, meanwhile, the county’s U20 footballers had a happier time. They led pretty much from pillar to post against Sligo in this afternoon’s opening round of the Leo Murphy Cup and they emerged from the game with an 0-16 to 0-10 win. Next up for them is a home match against Donegal next weekend.