Big test ahead for Solan's U21s

By John Casey

Winning mentality: Mayo will have to be on top of their game tomorrow against Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Winning mentality: Mayo will have to be on top of their game tomorrow against Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

The Mayo U21s travel to Tullamore on Sunday to take on Leinster kingpins and three in a row provincial winners Dublin in what promises to be a cracking semi final. Dublin got the better of a well fancied Kildare side (winners of the Leinster minor title three years ago ) in this year's U21 final.

In the Leinster final despite allowing the Lilywhites race into a seven point lead by the 25th minute. A familiar name from the All-Ireland senior club final, Ballyboden's Shane Clayton was a key component of their Leinster victory when he was sent on to thwart the influence of Kildare hotshot Ben McCormack who had scored five points from play before Clayton was instructed to shepherd him, he did not score thereafter. That is a measure of the standard of Mayo's opponents for Saturday, that a guy who had a blinding All-Ireland club final is not making the starting line up, although I expect him to start on Saturday. Another familiar name, Colm Basquel from Ballyboden, a Mayo supporter by all accounts, will also need special attention as he has pace to burn as Castlebar Mitchels found out in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. Like Mayo, Dublin started slowly in their provincial final before eventually finding their feet, and when they did, they certainly clicked and were very impressive upfront. Con O'Callaghan, the Dublin full forward, helped himself to 1-07 by the end of extra time.

The Mayo full back line will need to be capable of dealing with O'Callaghan a little better than they did with Diarmuid Murtagh, Michael Solan will certainly be looking for a much improved first half from his Mayo team than they produced against Roscommon in the Connacht final. Confidence should be at a premium after their heroic second half display and they should fear no one as they are the All-Ireland minor champions of 2013. Mayo have far more familiar names with senior experience than that of their opponents, and certainly for us to be in with a shout we will need those senior players on the team to step up to the plate. Stephen Coen and Diarmuid O'Connor will drive the team on, Conor Loftus will certainly be looking for a much improved display than he produced against Roscommon where he was substituted. It's extremely unusual to see a player with senior inter county experience being substituted at U21 level. He has a big point to prove to Michael Solan and indeed Stephen Rochford, and for that reason I expect Loftus to come with all guns blazing in Tullamore. Also keep an eye out for former Ireland international soccer player Niall Quinn as he will probably be in the crowd as his son Mikey is the Dublin sub goal keeper.

The big two show their teeth

Both Kerry and Dublin were very impressive winners in their respective league semi finals against Roscommon and Donegal in Croke Park last Sunday. Some poor defending allowing Kerry to score three first half goals against Roscommon which ultimately killed off the game. The Rossies have now lost their last three games albeit against three of the country's top four teams, Mayo Dublin and Kerry. Donegal manager Rory Gallagher will have to come up with something different if his side ever come up against the Dubs again as Jim Gavin's men have found a way of penetrating the Donegal blanket. Quick ball and long accurate foot passing seems to be the key. It does also help when you have players like Paul Flynn and Bernard Brogan executing such a plan. The league final will be compelling viewing for us Mayo folk to see where we need to be at for later on in the year.

Seven out of seven

The switching of Roscommon's match with Dublin from Hyde Park to Carrick on Shannon caused much debate a few weeks ago, most probably because it was Dublin and probably because it was switched at the eleventh hour. It did not take a brain surgeon to recognise from the previous week the venue would not be playable and that is the reason I am sure most people are annoyed. I can understand the Roscommon county board trying to hold the game at their county ground given the atmosphere and crowds the Dubs bring along, with the economic boost for their county town, but at the same time you have to treat supporters with a little respect. Roscommon have now played their seven league encounters at seven different venues, which is surely a first. Moral of the story, get your pitch sorted.



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