A Saturday just after midday may not have the feel of championship football, but that’s what it will be for the Mayo minors tomorrow. After overcoming Roscommon, Leitrim, and Galway to claim their third Connacht title in a row, the next stop on the train is Hyde Park and meeting with Offaly. The midlanders were surprised in the Leinster final, where Longford put in a match winning display against a team who had beaten them by 22 points earlier in the championship in Leinster (which has a backdoor, unlike the Connacht championship ). Mayo manager Tony Duffy has been working hard to ensure his side do not go into the game complacent after winning the Connacht title. “We’ve had three tough championship games so far, we beat Roscommon, Leitrim, and Galway by only a handful of scores each time. We may have been the better sides in those games, but it was always close enough that the lads knew it was championship football and had to concentrate all the time. They [Offaly] are a big physical side, I think they were caught on the hop in the Leinster final by Longford after beating them by 22 points back in April. I’m sure their pride has been really hurt by that defeat and that they’ll have one big kick in them to prove themselves and we could be the side on the end of that kick on Saturday. It’s about us being able to handle it and play our own game.”
In the Leinster final, Offaly were in control of the game in the first half, but did not take their chances, with team captain Andrew Graham, their go to guy, scoring four points over the 60 minutes. But the Faithful county were outscored by 0-10 to 0-3 in a second half collapse, Duffy made the trip to Croke Park to scout both sides and knows tomorrow’s game will be a tough test. “I was up a the Leinster final, they got off to a good start but missed a couple of goal scoring chances early on. Then Longford came back at them in the second half and tagged on a few points to stun Offaly, they won’t be that bad again,” said Duffy.
Mayo did pick up their third Connacht title on the hop, but they have yet to really light the touch paper on the field. Duffy is acutely aware that his players are constantly learning and has been working behind the scenes with his players to improve their skills. “You’re constantly working on facets of the game that you’re not happy with on the training field. We have been all year trying to improve the different parts of the lads’ game that they need to. We work hard at it on the training field and spotting where the work needs to be done on DVD. But you can find that the things you work on the week before in training go well, while things that were fine a few weeks earlier don’t go as well. You have to make sure they get the balance right.”
Darren Coen is the only major injury concern for Mayo going into the game, but his manager is confident that he will be ready for battle tomorrow afternoon. “Darren is the only injury concern we have, he picked up a dead leg in the u21 championship last weekend for St Gerald’s. But we’re confident he’ll make it, it could have been a worse injury, he hasn’t trained since then. But at least with a dead leg it usually responds to treatment quite well.”
On Wednesday evening, Duffy announced an unchanged starting 15 from the one which started the Connacht final for tomorrows game. But speaking to the Mayo Advertiser before the team was announced he said that were pushing very hard to make the starting team. “There are a number of lads who have shown well when they got a chance and have been doing very well in training over the past few weeks and you have to reward those who are playing well.”
Mayo v Offaly,
Hyde Park, Roscommon,
Saturday, July 30,
Throw in: 12.30pm.