If it wasn’t a difficult enough task for Tony Duffy taking over as Mayo minor manager after two successive appearances in the All Ireland final at this grade for the county, on Saturday evening it is win or bust for the year before June is even out. Duffy was the man to come out on top of a number of candidates picked by the county board to lead the Mayo minor side this year, following Ray Dempsey and his backroom team’s elevation to the u21 side. So far so good for Duffy and his backroom team of Vinnie Walsh, Liam Lavelle, and Michael Ruane, the Connacht minor league saw Mayo pick up four wins from five, the only defeat coming at the hands of this weekend’s opponents Roscommon on the opening day of the competition at the tail end of March in Ballyhaunis.
While minor level is always notoriously hard to predict as to how well a side will progress in any given year, Duffy and his management team are able to call on the services of a number of key players from last year’s side which went all the way to the All Ireland final. Captain Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber ), Danny Kirby (Castlebar ), Fergal Durkan (Castlebar ), Darren Coen (Hollymount ), and Jack McDonnell (Swinford ) were in the 24 who were part of the match day squad for last year’s All Ireland final, while a number of others from this year’s panel were also included in the overall 30.
Duffy was looking forward to what he expects to be a close fought game when he spoke to the Mayo Advertiser during the week. “It’s great on a personal level to be in charge of a side going into championship action, it’s very enjoyable but that will only last if we win on Saturday.” Taking over after Ray Dempsey was never an easy task, but Duffy sees it that Dempsey has set the bench mark he will have to reach. “Ray did a great job and he really raised the bar very high, but what we are here to do is reach that bar and go over it.”
Having seen Roscommon up close in the Connacht minor league already this season Duffy knows that his side will have their hands full on Saturday evening. “They played very well against us that day and were full value for their win, if they play like that again we’ll have a tough task on our hands.” This time around though Duffy will be able to call on a few faces who were not available the last time the sides met. “We’ll have seven or eight different faces this time around, whereas they’ll be more or less the same players to pick from so it should only improve us.”
Having a number of players from last years team is a great bonus for his side and Duffy will be looking to them to provide leadership on Saturday evening. “The likes of Cillian [O’Connor] is a natural leader on and off the pitch for the lads, and then Danny Kirby and Fergal Durkan have that experience on the field to drive on the lads so it’s great to have that.”
Connacht MFC SF
Mayo v Roscommon,
McHale Park, At 5pm