Duffy delights as Mayo advance to the final

GAA: Celtic Challenge U17 Michael Feery Cup Semi Final; Mayo 2-08 Kildare 0-13

Final bound: The Mayo U17 hurlers who booked a place in the Celtic Challenge U17 Michael Feery Cup final. Photo: Mayo GAA

Final bound: The Mayo U17 hurlers who booked a place in the Celtic Challenge U17 Michael Feery Cup final. Photo: Mayo GAA

The Mayo U17 Celtic Challenge Hurling side advanced to the All-Ireland Michael Feery Cup final after overcoming the Kildare Lilywhites by the narrowest of margins.

In what was a pulsating game from start to finish, it was the home side who held on at the death to become the first Mayo side to reach a Celtic Challenge Cup final since its inception in 2017.

In the end – it was a crucial second half goal from Caiseal Gaels’ Colin Duffy – and a point in either half from the same player – which proved to be the decisive scores on the day which got Mayo over the line.

In perfect settings at the Adrian Freeman Memorial Park in Tooreen, it was the Lilywhites who were first out of the blocks with a point from the impressive Kyle Kelly.

Kelly would go on to record four points from midfield over his hour of hurling. The first quarter was riddled with poor shot selection from both sets of attacks as defences on either side were dominant.

It took all of 18 minutes for Mayo to record their first score of the game from Westport corner forward Cathal Guilfoyle – as he showed his skill to pop over from close range.

Kildare full-forward Cormac Geissel and Colin Duffy for Mayo exchanged points before Mayo nosed in front in the 25th minute when Conor Donaldson goaled from close range, after he forced a turnover in the Kildare defence.

Cormac Geissel and Kyle Kelly recorded a brace of points in succession for the Leinster charges before Mayo captain Sean McGhee dragged his side further in front with two late first half points – one of which came from a long range placed ball. This left the half time score at 1-4 to 0-5 in favour of Mayo – as they faced into the slender breeze in the second half.

With Mayo’s Aiden Cunningham adopting a more defensive position in an effort to thwart the Kildare attack, the scoring threat for Mayo had to be taken up by his team-mates at the other end of the field.

Colm Enright took on this mantle as he pointed on the run shortly after the restart – closely followed by a Cillian Tracey Kildare point.

But the score of the game came for Mayo in the 35th minute when Conor Donaldson crossed in a beautiful pass to Colin Duffy from out near the corner flag. Duffy took the pass in his stride before roofing the ball into the Kildare net past the hapless Conor Taaffe in the Kildare goal. This goal put Mayo 2-5 to 0-7 up – a lead they didn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game.

As Kildare began to eat into their deficit, three Kildare points in succession from impressive substitute Dara McNichol (2 ) and the aforementioned Kyle Kelly – which gave their side hope.

But Colm Enright (free ) and Matthew Connor replied for Mayo with points to keep their noses in front. Cormac Giessel and the now confident Colin Duffy again exchanged points, as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

In a defiant end of the game by the Mayo rear-guard, they held their goal at bay due to some tremendous defending by Sean Kedian, Ryan Finn and Jake Glavey – as they thwarted many Kildare attacks before clearing their lines.

Kildare needed goals to get their noses in front, but had to be content with late points from Darragh Ryan (2f ) and Kelly again. And when the final sounded the Mayo lads had achieved what no other Mayo Celtic Challenge side had done before - and had qualified for the final by the slimmest of margins.

The win for Mayo was built on work-rate – no more so from the aforementioned defenders, along with Westport corner backs Tom Lambert and Conor Ketterick – who put in a massive shift against their tough opponents.

The protection of the Mayo goal was also a major factor in this win - as goalkeeper Stephen Reilly and full-back Rory Deane put their bodies on the line on regular occasions.

Mayo now go forward to the Michael Feery Cup final on Saturday, June 4 against Sligo – a team which Mayo met and overcame in the group stage earlier in the campaign.

Mayo: Stephen Reilly (Tooreen ); Conor Ketterick (Westport ), Rory Deane (Castlebar ), Tom Lambert (Westport ); Sean Keadin (Claremorris ), Ryan Finn (Tooreen ), Jake Glavey (Tooreen ); Sean McGhee (0-2,1f ) (Ballyvary ), Matthew Connor (0-1 ) (Caiseal Gaels ); Colin Duffy (1-2 ) (Caiseal Gaels ), Colm Enright (0-2,1f ) (Castlebar ), Conor Donaldson (1-0 ) (Castlebar ); Cathal Guilfoyle (0-1 ) (Westport ), Aidan Cunningham (Castlebar ), Sean Lynskey (Tooreen ). Subs: Oisin Mulroy (Castlebar ), Anthony Rowland (Castlebar ), Eoin Healy (Ballina ), Lee Hennigan (Castlebar ), Sean Duffy (Ballina ), Tomas O’Reilly (Westport ), Dylan Groarke (Tooreen ), Eoin Conway (Tooreen ), Damien Early (Ballina ), Charlie Kelly (Westport ), Michael Foody (Claremorris ) & Rian Haran (Caiseal Gaels ).

Kildare: Conor Taaffe; Diarmaid Finn, Ian Crawford, Dara Cooke; Cian O’Donovan, Sean Mimnagh, Ben Mulligan; Shane Kelly, Kyle Kelly (0-4 ); James O’Donohue, Paul L’Estrange, Olan Kelly; Donagh Ryan (0-3,3f ), Cormac Geissel (0-3 ), Cillian Tracey (0-1 ). Subs: Paddy Martin, Eoin Carroll, Daire McNichol (0-2 ), Taghd O’Donohue.

Ref: Aaron Clogher (Roscommon )


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