The full-time whistle sounded a bit earlier on at Ballinamore in the Christy Ring promotion/relegation play-off and it’s our lads who came out on top, winning on a scoreline of 1-21 to 1-14. So after a year down in the third tier the hurlers will be back competing for the Christy Ring Cup again in 2017.
While today’s game didn’t have the same razzmatazz as last weekend’s Nicky Rackard Cup final at Croke Park, it was arguably a far more important match to win. Why there are promotion/relegation play-offs between the different hurling tiers is highly questionable but there are and so it was a contest in which our lads needed to come out on top.
There was no Keith Higgins in the team today either. What the Mayo lads did have, though, was plenty of momentum going into today’s play-off, having had a run of 100% success in the recently-concluded Rackard Cup, culminating in the capture last Saturday at HQ of the county’s first ever national senior hurling title.
They started well today at the Leitrim venue, building up a seven-point lead partly thanks to an early goal by Darren McTigue, but Derry then fought back to cut the gap to three at the break. The Oak Leafers made a determined push to hold onto their second tier status on the resumption and they led briefly, by 1-11 to 1-10, when Shane Farren netted a penalty goal for them fifteen minutes after the restart.
Last Saturday at Croke Park when Armagh really put it up to them in the second half of the Rackard Cup, it was the Mayo lads who found an extra gear. Once again with their backs to the wall today, JP Coen’s men responded in impressive fashion. With Kenny Feeney once more leading the charge, the lads in Green and Red eased away from their Northern opponents to close out a seven-point win.
Congrats to the county’s hurlers on what has been a very productive year for them. Relegation last year would have been a bitter pill for them to swallow – made worse by the fact that it was that defeat to the Rossies that sent them down to the third tier – but they’ve responded in fine style in 2016.
Winning the Rackard Cup and securing promotion back up to the second tier would obviously have been their twin targets starting out this year. Well done to them on nailing both in the impressive manner that they did.