Mayo have named an unchanged starting 15 for their All Ireland semi final against Tyrone, however manager Tony Duffy will be sweating on the fitness of two of his starters ahead of the big game. Both centre half back Conor Walsh and corner back Brendan Harrison are doubts for the game. “We might not be able to get our full strength starting 15 out on to the field for Sunday but we will be giving the lads every opportunity to make Sunday's game,” Duffy told the Mayo Advertiser earlier this week. Even if the two defenders do not make it Duffy is more than confident in the players he has in reserve. “We’ve got a great panel of 32 lads now and every one of them is working as hard as they can to put themselves in contention for a spot on the field, if the lads don't make it I'm fully confident in they guys we have to come in being more than capable of filling the gaps.”
This will be Mayo's third successive All Ireland semi final at the minor grade, with Ray Dempsey leading the last two sides to victory at this stage of the competition, Duffy is looking forward to his first outing in Croke Park in charge of the minor team. “When you take on a job like this, you want to be playing in these type of occasions. You want to test yourself against the best and beat the best, and that's what we'll be going to do on Sunday. Tyrone are a good side and we'll have to be on top of our game to beat them.”
The last time that Mayo faced the Red Hand county at this level was the 2008 All Ireland final which went to a replay and extra time before Tyrone eventually overcame Mayo. The same man who managed Tyrone in that final, Raymond Monroe will be Duffy's opposite number on Sunday. This year Monroe's side have waltzed through the Ulster championship and saw off the latest batch of stars from the Kingdom in the quarter finals. In their quarter final Ronan O'Neill was their leading man kicking five points, with impressive displays also coming from Harry Óg Conlon, Shea McGarrity, and Richard Donnelly.
Mayo will go into Sunday's game as very much the underdogs with one bookmaker pricing Tyrone as 2/7 favourites, with Mayo as 10/3 outsiders to win, a position with which Duffy is more than comfortable going into the game. “It's a great position, because the pressure is all on them to perform like they have been, we've just got to go out there and play our game and put it up to them and show that we can beat them. Hopefully it will take the pressure off our lads and it will enable them to go out there and play with the abandon that you need at the level to take a game by the scruff of the neck and win it.”
Anybody who has watched the Mayo minors this year will know that they have not put in a complete 60 minute performance in any of their four championship matches to date, and were very lucky to come out of three of those games with the win, none more so than in the quarter final against Offaly where it took a Cillian O'Connor inspired late surge to see off the beaten Leinster finalists. This Sunday could be the day that they put in their first complete performance of the year Duffy hopes. “We haven't played well from start to finish in any of our games so far, we've been very good in stages and not so good in other parts. Hopefully it means that we haven't peaked too early and that we can start to peak on Sunday and bring it on from there. The lads have put in a huge amount of work to get this far and they want to go further, so we are ready for Sunday. It's going to be a very difficult task because Tyrone are a very good side as they've shown so far, but we are confident that we have what it takes to beat them when it comes down to it.”
Mayo minor team
Paul Mannion (Mayo Gaels ); Brendan Harrison (Aghamore ), Niall Freeman (Aghamore ), Ciaran Twomey (Ballina Stephenites ); Ryan Quirke (Claremorris ), Conor Walsh (Balla ), Conor Horan (Swinford ); Danny Kirby (Castlebar Mitchels ), Sean McGarry (Ballina Stephenites ); Fergal Durkan (Castlebar Mitchels ), Mícheál Forde (Ballycastle ), Sean Kelly (Moy Davitts ); Jack McDonnell (Swinford ), Darren Coen (Hollymount ), Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber ).