Deane's minors ready to roll

GAA: Connacht Minor Football Championship

The Mayo minors get their championship season underway on Friday night. Photo: Sportsfile

The Mayo minors get their championship season underway on Friday night. Photo: Sportsfile

The pressure of win or bust has been taken away from the Connacht Minor Football Championship this year, with the reintroduction of a round robin competition where everyone will get five games.

Last year in his first year in charge of the Mayo minors, Sean Deane saw his side beaten at the first fence by Roscommon in Hyde Park and that was it for the summer for that band of young men. This year, while victory is always the goal, at least it leaves room for these young men to make mistakes and learn along the way with one result not being fatal to their summer.

Looking back on last year, Deane is happy that his side will have a chance to show their credentials across a number of games this time around, saying: "We had a great bunch of lads last year and they didn't get a fair chance.

"The one thing I couldn't understand was, if you were female, you could play round robin minor (football ), but if you were male, you couldn’t. I don’t think it was fair.

"For young guys it's the pinnacle of their footballing career to play minor for Mayo, and to get one chance was disappointing, to be honest. When you take into consideration the pandemic and you look back 18 months before that, they wouldn't have played Under-16 football, so that meant that preparation time was dramatically curtailed to say the least, so it was kind of a double whammy for them."

But winning games is still the main thing and that starts tonight when Leitrim come to James Stephens Park in Ballina for the first round of the Connacht championship and that is as far ahead as Deane is looking at the minute.

"A successful year would look like beating Leitrim on Friday night and then we can talk after that again. I’m not looking past that," he told reporters at a press event on Easter Sunday night. He added that: "I’m not being pedantic in any way, but we’re not looking past that. We're looking at Leitrim, that’s our focus, and we’re not looking at anything else past that."

Getting to know the opposition isn't easy at this grade early on in the year too, he explained, saying: "Sometimes it’s very difficult at this age group to assess the opposition because there is no league. We’ve done a little bit of research as best we possibly can. We know that they are a very competent outfit, very athletic and very well-coached and drilled, so I would expect, to say the least, a right battle in Ballina Friday night."

As for what type of football he wants to see his side go out and play, football is very simple in his mind, he explained. "There are three aspects to it, and we build everything around this - when you have the ball, when you don’t have the ball, and when the ball is there to be won. We’ve built everything around those three pillars."

Deane has whittled his squad down to 34 players with Moy Davitts' Ronan Clarke and Ballinrobe's Diarmuid Duffy the joint captains of the team. Telling those who didn't make it into the squad is the hardest part of the job, he said last Sunday, before adding: "We have players from 22 clubs in our squad and all clubs have been very supportive - we would also like to thank Ballina Stephenites, Davitts, Belmullet, Breaffy and the COE for the use of their facilities."

It all gets underway this evening for them in Ballina.


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