The Mayo footballing weekend gets under way this evening in the the old house of pain for many of the counties sides - Tuam Stadium. The old ground is getting a lick of paint and some refurbishment works at the minute and it has been the scene of many a painful defeat for Mayo teams down through the years, but for this year's crop of Mayo minors that will have little effect on them as they take their next formative steps as inter-county footballers.
Heading into the final round of the round robin stage of the Connacht Championship a fortnight ago, their place in the competition was out of their own hands, having played their four games already and ending up with two wins and two losses - they had to await for word from the meeting of Roscmmon and Sligo, needing the Yeats men to pick up a victory to send them into the semi-final stages. Sligo duly obliged and set up a semi-final between the two sides last Wednesday evening week, which saw Mayo avenge their loss to Michael Duffy's side in the round robin stages and set up this evening's provincial final against Galway.
The Tribesmen came to Castlebar three weeks ago and left with the win and direct progress to tonight's final. They bagged two goals in the closing stages to run out 2-12 to 0-11 winners - the goals put a gloss on a win they looked likely to secure for most of the game. Having tasted defeat in that game, Mayo know they will have to up their performance levels this evening if they are to pick up the county's first provincial minor title since 2014 and put to an end a four-year losing run against Galway in championship action at this grade.
Last week's semi-final win over Sligo came thanks to Mayo hitting a goal glut running in five goals over the hour's play, with Paul Walsh hitting four of them and his clubmate Ciaran Mylett the other three-pointer. Mayo manager Tomas Morley said after that game, looking forward to tonight's encounter that: "There wasn't very much in it with ten minutes to go - we have no fear and it is the fact they have beaten us that adds to the impetus to go on now and win Connacht.
"It is where we want to be and what we want to do is to win Connacht. These lads have put in a huge effort for months and before that a lot of these lads didn't stop from u16 with the Tedd Webb sides - they have done a lot of work, it is in them to beat Galway, it is all about the performance on the day."
Morley and his backroom team have put together a hard working side with a number of players capable of taking the game by the scruff of the neck as Walsh did last week. The full back line of Oisin Tunney, Aidan Cosgrove and Alfie Morrison have been a touch tight unit, while in front of them Ruairi Keane and Eoin Gilraine have been a hard working half back line. Morley has mixed things up in the middle of the park at times with Ethan Henry being partnered by first Dylan Thornton against Galway and then Paddy Heneghan against Sligo, both men can be equally as effective on the half forward line for the cause. Up front the trio of Frank Irwin, Ciaran Mylett and Walsh will be looked to to get things going on the scoreboard, with Irwin's aerial ability an outlet Mayo will look to exploit.
Tomo Culhane hit 1-4 for Galway against Mayo in their earlier meeting and the Salthill-Knocknacarra man will take watching by the Mayo rearguard, Nathan Grainger also showed he knows where the target is in that game, finishing up with four points to his name while Evan Nolan, Daniel Cox and James McLaughlin all put in good showings against Mayo in that game.