Lambert ready to lead Mayo's final charge

GAA: All Ireland u20 Championship

On the run again: Paul Lambert is looking for another All Ireland final appearance this time with the Mayo U20s. Photo: Sportsfile.

On the run again: Paul Lambert is looking for another All Ireland final appearance this time with the Mayo U20s. Photo: Sportsfile.

Something is brewing on the football scene in Westport, the Covies have the look of a coming force in Mayo football circles and that has been backboned by some serious work done in the underage and schools' circles over the past number of years.

One of their rising stars has been Paul Lambert - the Trinity College physiotherapy student has already tasted national success being a key man in the Westport side that won the All Ireland intermediate club title last year and they have a serious representation in this year's Mayo U20 set up.

"There’s six of us on the team, it's a great thing for the club, a great achievement for the club. But at the end of the day all of our clubs are put aside when we come in the door, we’re all one team and there can’t be any rivalries held inside the dressing room," he told us before adding that the success his club has seen in recent times is down to a lot of hard work behind the scenes: "The structures were put in place a number of years ago, there's a lot of people in the background that have worked Trojan amounts to get to where we are, it doesn't happen overnight, it's hard work really and obviously there has to be a bit of talent there too along with it. But there's been a lot of people in the club who have helped out."

Lambert is following in the footsteps of a number of great players from his own club who have gone before him in wearing the green and red and it is a privilege and an honour for him. "It's a great honour, as a young lad you're watching players from your own club, the likes of James Gill and Lee Keegan, before and they are your role models when you are coming up. Then when you actually get to put on that Mayo jersey and go out on the pitch and do it justice it is a great honour."

The victory in the Connacht U20 championship put an end to a few fallow years on the underage scene for the county (bar the exceptional side that won All Ireland titles in both minor in 2013 and U21 in 2016 ), Mayo have not won a minor title since 2014 and the 2016 u21 win was the first for the county since 2009.

Lambert had been a part of a few of those underage sides and despite not tasting success with them until this year he senses that they were not that far away in reality. "Look, obviously there were a couple of years we had a few good minor teams that could have won minors and probably didn't deservedly in the end - but look it is all about bringing players though, and ultimately if you can get lads coming through from a minor side and playing senior football in five or six years time after they finish with the minors that is the real aim of the game."

Having a management team led by Mike Solan who has already guided a Mayo side to underage All Ireland success is something that Lambert knows is great for the group to rely on. "They’re great, they keep us grounded. They make sure everything is put in place for us to be the best we can be and a lot of the time they just kind of leave it up to the players and at the end of the day they can only control so much on the sideline.

"With every manager you have to put your trust in them, and they're putting their trust in you by giving you a starting jersey or a sub jersey, putting you on the pitch. It's great that they have had that experience."

Winning the Connacht title against Roscommon on their home patch in front of a huge home crowd was a massive experience for this team Lambert says. "It was great, I suppose going up there we didn’t have much pressure on us. The Rossies had their senior team there, it was three hours before the senior game kicked off so there wasn’t huge amount of pressure on us, so we could just go out and play a game of football."

As for the challenge this weekend coming against Derry, he knows it will not be easy: "We wouldn’t know a huge amount. We know they have come through a tough campaign in Ulster, they’re obviously a very good team and they had great minor team last year, they got to an All-Ireland final. We know they are going to be a tough test and we'll have our homework done on them and just look forward to next week.

"It will be much the same for them, they won’t know a huge amount for us. But at this level it is on the day, any team can beat any team, so it's all about getting our performance right and making sure that our heads are in the right place so that we will be in position to win the game."

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