The county’s hurlers aren’t often in the limelight but they will be this coming Sunday. They don’t often get to play at Croke Park either but that’s happening on Sunday too, as HQ is the venue for the Nicky Rackard Cup final, in which Mayo take on Donegal.
The Rackard decider shares a double bill at Croke Park on Sunday. It’s the curtain-raiser on the day, with a 1.30pm throw-in, while the Christy Ring Cup final between Down and Kildare throws in at 4pm. Both matches are being streamed live by TG4 on their YouTube channel and I’ll embed the stream for our game here on the site as well.
This year’s Rackard Cup campaign has seen us progress effortlessly to the final, racking up big scores in all three games we’ve played. First up we enjoyed a 3-32 to 2-10 win over Monaghan in Clontibret and we followed that up with a comfortable victory over Tyrone in Omagh. Last year we’d slipped up in this competition against the Red Hands but this time we crushed them by 1-24 to 0-9.
Last weekend’s semi-final, back on home turf at MacHale Park, was the toughest game we faced. We were level pegging with Leitrim at the break in that one but then pulled away impressively in the second half to win by 3-23 to 1-11.
These comfortable wins contrasted greatly with the tough days the team endured this spring. Operating for the second year in NHL Division 2A, the lads found the going extremely difficult, faced as they were by quality opposition week after week.
It was no real surprise that they ended up getting demoted, no shock either that their return from five outings was five defeats. I’m sure, though, that they’ll have regarded the narrow losses to Wicklow and Meath as ones that got away.
While that campaign proved chastening enough, it could be argued that it got them in the frame of mind for tough matches in the Rackard. To that extent, maybe it’s no surprise that in the last few weeks they’ve run up such big tallies against teams that had spent the spring operating in Divisions 3A and 3B.
Sunday’s opponents, Donegal, played, like Tyrone, in Division 3A earlier this year. But they’re a team who are – literally – on the up as they won the Division outright, beating Armagh by two points in the final back in March. This means that they’ll be joining our lads in Division 2B next year.
Donegal’s Rackard campaign has also been an untroubled one and, like ourselves, they’re coming into the final with a record of three wins from three outings.
Donegal played all three matches at home, in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny. They started out with a 2-13 to 1-14 win over Longford and the following weekend they saw off Armagh by 3-13 to 1-9. That guaranteed them a home semi-final and last weekend they beat Tyrone by 3-25 to 1-21 to book their place in the final.
There’s a bit of media coverage online about Sunday’s Rackard decider. Two of them focus on Mayo sharpshooter Shane Boland, who goes into the final as the leading scorer in the competition. Michael Commins has a feature piece with Shane in this week’s Mayo News (here) while Mike Finnerty has a similar one in the Irish Examiner (here).
The Western People has a piece focusing on Cillian Finn, a man who has a foot in both camps on Sunday. The Claremorris native has hurled for Mayo but, a Garda based in Donegal, he’s now involved with them and, but for an unfortunate cruciate injury, could well have found himself lining out against the Green and Red on Sunday. That piece is here.
Finally, the GAA website has a preview of the game – here.
Best of luck to the lads as they head for Croker in search of silverware on Sunday.
You can support the Mayo footballers and hurlers by playing the Mayo GAA Lotto, in which an €8,000 jackpot is now up for grabs. Play the Lotto here.