Mayo minors must be at the top of their game

Quite often the best game on All-Ireland final Sunday is the minor contest rather than the senior joust.

Last year was no exception and Mayo and Tyrone played out a thriller in Croke Park that had to go to a replay before Tyrone collected the silverware.

Mayo, with Ray Dempsey still in charge, are back in the decider again this weekend when they face a fancied Armagh outfit.

Mayo have not won the All-Ireland minor football final for 24 years, and they have unfortunately lost five All-Ireland minor finals since that 1985 success.

That kind of heartbreak would make you wonder what a county had done to insult the foot-balling gods?

Again this Sunday Mayo will be up against it as they are facing the hot favourites. Armagh are installed as 8/13 favourites, with Mayo quoted as 13/8 outsiders.

However Mayo enter the contest with experience from last year and a good run of form behind them.

I have watched this Mayo team three times in championship this season and they have some very fine players and a terrific work-rate and team unity. They have a good bench too and that can be vital in a final. They looked down and out against Down at half-time, but a few substitutions and a vastly improved second half saw them win at their ease.

Their star player is Castlebar’s Aidan Walsh who lined out at midfield in the win over Down. He is the team captain and he is a very fine free taker too and has a good engine for getting around the field. For Mayo to win, Walsh will have to be in top form.

Full-forward Cillian O’ Connor struck two very good goals in the semi-final and should be full of confidence ahead of Sunday’s clash.

Their man of the match against Down was goalkeeper Michael Slingermann who plays his club football with Kiltimagh. He gave a wonderful display the last day out and he is likely to be called upon to display his wares regularly this Sunday too.

The Armagh full-forward line is very highly rated and the Mayo full-back line is likely to be well stretched in their defensive duties. Keep an eye out for Ciaran Charlton and Caolan Crowe, the two Mayo wing-backs who both impressed against Down.

After losing five All-Ireland minor finals since their last win, few would begrudge Mayo their day in the sun.

Armagh would though, and they are appearing in their first final since 1992. They have not won the Tom Markham Cup since 1949 and 60 years later they will be exceedingly difficult to beat. Unless Ray Dempsey’s men play to their top potential and start a lot better than they did against Down, it could well be six contested and zero successes by Sunday evening.

We wish them well and no more than Roscommon footballers in 2006 and Galway footballers in 2007, and two weeks ago with the hurlers, it is great to see under-age success in the province.

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