Mayo minors stand on the edge of glory

GAA: All Ireland Minor Football Championship Final

See you tonight: Niall Hurley takes on Tomás Farthing in the Connacht final between the sides. Photo: Sportsfile.

See you tonight: Niall Hurley takes on Tomás Farthing in the Connacht final between the sides. Photo: Sportsfile.

Any successful championship campaign is a long journey, but for this year's Mayo minors the road ends this evening when they face down that old familiar foe - Galway - in Dr Hyde Park with the All Ireland title up for grabs.

The introduction of a round robin element to the provincial championship made sure that every team in Connacht would get four games at least, which is good thing for young players - but it has also led to the quirk that this will be the third time that Mayo and Galway have met in the championship so far this season.

The current win record stands at 2-0 to Mayo - but that is not something they are taking for granted to make 3-0 this evening, as they know Galway will be willing, ready and able to win when it matters the most.

As their manager Sean Deane explained ahead of the game, when asked how do you prepare to face a side you've played twice already who now know each other so well - it's all about putting that in the past and focusing on this one game, not what came before.

"I think the first and foremost thing is the game down in Tuam (in the round robin ), and I said it at the time, the lay off (before that game ) for Galway didn’t do them any favours.

"It was a different Galway team to a certain extent (in the Connacht final ), they improved for the Connacht final so they were a different team effectively that we played in the Connacht final and incrementally they have improved since the Connacht final.

"Obviously after their game against Dublin and against Derry we are expecting a real, real battle here. The two previous games have absolutely no relevance at all, because they were different types of games and as I said, they have improved incrementally game on game and we know we have to be better than for any game we have been in so far this season."

He also added: "Galway are a very good team and I said down at the game in Tuam that that was not the real Galway and I am not surprised that they came through. Fantastic team, great footballers and some real, real talent in that squad."

Deane and his management team of Gary Ruane, Danny O'Toole, Shane McCann and Martin Costello have put together an impressive side, who have been going at it together since the turn of the year and that work has seen them make it all the way to the showpiece occasion of the year.

Mayo have been solid all year with a very settled side in the championship, but that was down to the work they did in the "pre-championship" games, as Deane calls them.

"We had six pre-championship games and we had a number of in-house games and there was a lot of chopping and changing and if we go to the first pre-championship game, we played against Dublin and if you looked at the 15 who took the pitch that day and the 15 who then took to the pitch against Leitrim subsequent, there was massive positional changes and personal changes to get to where we have got; and if we didn’t have those pre-championship games, I think you know we wouldn’t be where we were at this juncture; we learned a lot and the lads learned a lot themselves too in terms of their development and ours as a management team."

The Mayo forward unit has caught the eye with some top class displays in the championship so far, but at the back they are equally impressive. David Dolan is assured in goals - he pulled off two top class saves against Kerry in the semi-final and his kicking ability - not just from kick-outs, but frees, is a major asset for Mayo. In front of him, John MacMonagle has been a rock at full back, since finding himself in that position and either side of him, Rio Mortimer and Lorcan Silke are tight tigerish defenders who are up to the challenge.

The half-back line of Colm McHale, Liam Maloney and Paul Gilmore will look to put the Galway half-forward line under plenty of pressure going away from the Mayo goal as they will when confronting them in their own half of the field. In the middle of the park, Jack Keane and Luke Feeney are a solid pairing, with Oliver Armstrong also showing what he can do in that area if called upon in his appearances this year.

Up front the half forward line of Diarmuid Duffy, Dara Hurley and James Maheady work hard, along with providing a real attacking punch also. In the full forward line, Ronan Clarke, Cathal Keaveny and Niall Hurley will be a match for any defence and have shown their qualities time in and time out this year in the championship.

Galway will not want to be beaten three times by Mayo in the championship, but there's one thing for sure, and that's that Mayo will not be taking this challenge lightly at all.


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