Donegal hurlers face side with score to settle

Mayo men still 'hurting' from last year's Nickey Rackard upset

Donegal hurlers face side with score to settle

UPSET: Donegal claimed a big scalp when the ybeat Mayo in last season's Nickey Rackard final. PICTURE: Sportsfile.

The Donegal hurlers face Mayo in the Allianz National Hurling League Division 2B this weekend knowing revenge will be high on the list of priorities for the visitors (Sunday, O'Donnell Park, 2pm).

Mickey McCann's side defeated the heavily-fancied Connacht outfit in last season's thrilling Nickey Rackard final, the first time a Donegal side had beaten the Westerners in close to two decades.

"We got the momentum and finished really strong in that final," said McCann. "Everything just fell right for us on the day, but I think Mayo will go into Sunday''s match as definite favourites.

"They are a lot stronger this year. Keith Higgins (four-time All-Star footballer) has retired from football and is concentrating solely on hurling, and they've brought two former Galway players into their defence.

"They've been up in Division 2A, so losing to us last year will have stung them. They will be hurting and gunning to get at us, and they are still in the running for promotion so will be looking to make sure of the two points."

Donegal's opening day victory over Roscommon has boosted their Division 2B survival hopes massively. The Rossies remain pointless after losing to Mayo at the weekend, and with it looking highly unlikely they will get anything from their remaining matches against Kildare and Derry, they look odds-on for the drop.

There wasn't too much anguish in the Donegal camp, therefore, when they were brought down to earth with a bang against Kildare last Saturday.

Though taking a massive 4-29 to 0-14 hammering from the reigning Christy Ring champions, McCann says his squad took some valuable lessons away from their humbling experience in St Conleth's Park.

"We went there knowing our backs would be against the wall," he said, "but what disappointed me was that we didn't perform very well and made a lot of silly mistakes.

"They are a step too far for us at the minute. The high intensity and speed they played at was a class above us and it was definitely a rude awakening.

"But the boys were even saying after the match, they'd rather be playing sides like this rather than being comfortable down playing the Fermanaghs and all the rest of it.

"When we knew the game was beyond us, we brought on seven subs so we could get a look at some of the younger players. It was a tough match for Rory Campbell (Setanta) to make his debut, but it's not one he'll likely forget.

"At the end of the day, the only way for us to progress as a side and to keep playing teams of this calibre is to stay up in this division.
"The two points we have may hopefully be enough, so we'll sweep the Kildare result under the table and go again."

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