Tribesmen first up for Solan's u20s

GAA: Connacht GAA U20 Football Championship

Back on the championship road: Michael Solan will be sending his Mayo u20 side into championship action tomorrow afternoon against Galway. Photo: Sportsfile.

Back on the championship road: Michael Solan will be sending his Mayo u20 side into championship action tomorrow afternoon against Galway. Photo: Sportsfile.

The second weekend in February sees championship action return for a Mayo side, with the shuffling around of the fixture calendar this year seeing the u20 championship move to a Spring start from the summer.

Tomorrow afternoon, Mayo will take on Galway in the semi-final of the Connacht u20 championship in MacHale Park with the game throwing in at 2pm. Last year both sides met in the Connacht final in Tuam Stadium with the Tribesmen - then under the guidance of their new senior manager Padraic Joyce - running out six point winners on a score of 0-16 to 0-10 in Tuam.

This year Galway will be under the guidance of former minor manager Dónal O'Fátharta, who led his side to the All Ireland final last year, where they were beaten by Cork after extra time. O'Fátharta will be able to call upon a number of players from last year who are underage again for the grade this year, including Jack Glynn, Brian Harlow, Tony Gill, Jack Kirrane and Matt Tierney.

The Tribesmen warmed up for the championship taking part in the John Kerins Cup, where they were beaten by Kerry and Cork, with Cork beating them 1-15 to 1-9 in their first game in that competition in mid January. Oisín Mac Donnacha bagged three points in that game, as did last year's minor star Tomo Culhane and Aidan Halloran, getting their goals. In their second game in that competition, Kerry saw them off 0-12 to 0-9 in Tuam.

Mayo prepared for the championship by winning the Leo Murphy Cup, seeing off Roscommon, Donegal and Derry in the group stages before beating Louth 2-18 to 0-8 in the final. Michael Solan is back in charge of the team this year and is again joined by Michael Conroy and Kieran Kilkelly on the sideline - Solan has also added Andy Moran to his backroom team after the former footballer of the year's retirement from senior inter-county football at the end of last year.

It's been a long time since Mayo beat Galway at this grade (it was u21 until two years ago ) when Mayo saw off Galway 1-14 to 0-15 in the Connacht semi-final, before losing the provincial final to Roscommon. Mayo last won the provincial title just two years ago - when they went all the way to the All Ireland final where they lost to Kildare.

Solan will have a number of last year's squad to call on, including Kilmaine's Oisin Mullin, who has stepped up to the senior side in recent weeks and continued to impress. Mullin hasn't been available to Mayo in the warm-up games owing to his club's involvement in the latter stages of the All Ireland Club Junior Championship and then being drafted into James Horan's squad since Kilmaine's elimination from the club championship.

Others from last year that Solan can call on include Jamie McNicholas, Rory Brickendan, Aaron McDonnell, Jack Coyne, Paul Towey and Paddy Goldrick - and the likes of Frank Irwin - who impressed with last year's minors, while Mayo supporters will also be interested in seeing how others such as Mark Moran and Dara McBrien fare tomorrow afternoon.


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