After the speeches and the euphoria had died down in the home dressing room, following Mayo's thrill-a-minute win over Roscommon in the Connacht under 21 semi-final, Pat Holmes was a happy man as his walking wounded were given treatment for injuries picked up over the course of 80 minutes of breakneck football.
First off the talk was about a fantastic performance by his players who, at different stages, looked to have the game wrapped up, before looking to be exiting the championship with only seconds left in injury time. “If you keep doing the right things for 60 minutes and keep plugging away the result will be what it will be. Of course we got a lucky break, but we were unlucky to concede a second goal so soon after their first goal, we were just caught out under a high ball. Three points down and time up and the boys kept plugging away, we were lucky to get into extra time, but once we did get there we pushed on.”
Coming out at the start of the second half seven points up, the game looked to be over and Mayo would cruise to their way into their 10th Connacht final on the trot. With six titles in this grade out of the past nine championships and three of them under the Pat Holmes-Noel Connelly axis, this was one of the toughest games any Mayo side has played in this competition in a number of years.
Letting the lead slip was something that Holmes wasn't happy about, but it's all part of the game, he reckons. “At any level you’re not going to dominate a game all the time and teams are going to come back at you, but you have to try and make sure that they don't catch up with you. Today we got caught and they pushed ahead of us. But we had chances in the game: We hit the crossbar three times, all in all we did ride our luck a bit but if any of those had gone in we could have won the game in normal time. Roscommon will feel very dejected, they are a fine footballing team, but we're delighted to get out of here with a win.”
When Roscommon were piling on the pressure, the Mayo management team didn't wait long to move Kevin McLoughlin back to try to curb the influence of Conor Devanney, who had turned the momentum of the game as soon as he was introduced. “The bottom line is you have to try things when things are going against you so we put Kevin McLoughlin back there and it worked out.”
With wins over heavyweights Galway and Roscommon now under their belt, all thoughts are now on the men from the Yeats County. “We take it a step at a time and now it's about Sligo. We've never played Sligo in our four years involved so far. I thought the lads played some very good football in what was a great game. All that was on the agenda was winning the game. Galway was a nervy game, but we came through it. From then on it was all about Roscommon and now it's Sligo and we’re taking it one day at a time.”