Juniors look to reclaim provincial crown

GAA: Connacht Junior Football Championship

Man and ball: Mayo's Barry Duffy tackles Conor Beirne from Leitrim in the Connacht Junior Football Championship semi-final. Photo: Sportsfile.

Man and ball: Mayo's Barry Duffy tackles Conor Beirne from Leitrim in the Connacht Junior Football Championship semi-final. Photo: Sportsfile.

The Mayo juniors will be contesting the Connacht Junior Football Championship Final for the fifth year in a row on Sunday when they take on Galway on the undercard of the senior decider between the Tribesmen and Roscommon.

The last time Mayo claimed the provincial title at this grade was in 2016 when they went all the way to the All Ireland final, only to be defeated by Kerry in the showpiece occasion. Out of that side we have seen a number of players make the step up to the senior set-up, with Eoin O’Donoghue, Darren Coen, Brian Reape and Shairoze Akram all involved with the main side in different capacities this year.

Mayo booked their place in Sunday’s final off the back of a hard fought 2-15 to 1-14 win over Leitrim in Castlebar three weeks ago, before the the senior semi-final between Mayo and Roscommon.

Jarlath Trench’s men trailed Leitrim’s second string by two points at the break, before reeling off eight points in a row after the resumption to set the foundation for their four point victory. Crossmolina Deel Rovers man, Keith Hopkins, was the main man on the scoreboard for Mayo that day, bagging 1-2, while Adragh’s Brendan Carr chipped in with four points (three frees ) from the centre-half-forward position and Swinford’s Liam Moran kicked three points from play.

Balla net minder, Mattie Flanagan, got his name on the scoreboard with two points from 45s, but he looks unlikely to feature on Sunday after picking up a broken rib playing soccer for Manulla in the TP Brennan Connacht Cup final the day after the win over Leitrim.

While the Mayo attack found their form in the second half against Leitrim, they will be looking for their defence to close down the Galway attack from the get-go on Sunday. There is plenty of quality in the back six, with All Ireland u21 winner and survivor from the 2016 Connacht winning side, Barry Duffy from Balla, manning the full-back spot and Ardanree Sarsfields man Cian Bourke in the number six shirt.

As is the norm with this grade – there is a big change-over in personnel in the Mayo side this year from last year, with just Bourke, Carr and Kilmeena’s Darragh Keavney starting last year's Connacht final, in the starting 15 in Mayo’s semi-final win this year.

Galway, after claiming the Connacht title last year, went all the way to the All Ireland final, only to be beaten by Kerry, who completed a four-in-a-row last year. The Tribesmen booked their spot in the final with a 2-15 to 0-8 win over Sligo in Markievicz Park.

Michael Day hit 1-3 from play for Galway, with Seán Denvir bagging four points, Jonathan Ryan landed three points and Padraic O’Donnell chipped in with 1-1 from wing back. The Tribesmen have a good spread of players from their side last year, with Adrian Ward, Eddie O’Sullivan, Thomas Gleeson, Conor Brady, Padraic O’Donnell, Jonathan Ryan and Eoin O’Curraion all involved then and again this year.

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