The hopefully long and winding road to success for the Mayo minor gets underway this evening in Ballinamore when they take on Leitrim in round one of the Connacht Minor Football Championship.
Along with the grade being restructured to u17 rather than u18 level a few years ago, the provincial championship has also been shaken up in recent years with it now being a round robin group competition - rather than the straight knock out which could see a team out on their ear in early May after a long Spring of build up.
Mayo will have at least four games in the Connacht Championship and hopefully one or two more at least should they progress - they get under way this evening in Leitrim and follow that up with a home game against Roscommon next Friday, May 24; they then make the short hop to Sligo the following Friday evening, May 31, before they have a two week break until their final group game against Galway on Friday, June 14 in round four. Mayo have a bye in the last round of group games pencilled in for the week after that.
The permutations are simple enough for this competition - finish in first place in the standings at the end of the group stages and they will go directly into the final. If they finish in second or third place, they will be in the semi-final on Wednesday, June 26 - the provincial final is down for decision on Friday, July 5 should Mayo make it that far.
It will be five years since Mayo last claimed the minor title in the province with their 2014 win - a second win on the bounce to go with a win the year before that was bookended by All Ireland success that year.
This will be Tom Morley's second year in charge of the Mayo minor side and they will be looking to see an improvement on last term that saw Mayo finish in third place and out of the reckoning under the system the competition was ran by last term, where only the top two made the final, with Mayo losing to both Roscommon and Galway and picking up wins over Sligo and Leitrim.
Morley and his backroom team, which features the likes of Fergal Kelly, Kevin Filan, Paul Cunny, Tom Mulderrig and Kieran Lavelle, have been busy running their eye over 120 players this year before settling on their championship squad. With no Connacht Minor League this year either it has been a case of playing numerous championship games against the likes of bit hitters like Dublin, Tyrone, Kerry along with Meath, and Clare and Wexford as they fine-tuned their preparations ahead of this evening's championship opener.