The only silver lining that the Mayo minors could take out of their Connacht final defeat to Roscommon a little under three weeks ago was that they were going to get a second chance. If Tony Duffy’s side are going to take that second chance, they will have to seriously up their performance against the rising kings of underage football in Munster, Tipperary.
Not that long ago, a Mayo underage side would not have been overly concerned about facing off against the Premier County on a football field. But the last few years, both at minor and u21 level, have seen the Munster men come on leaps and bounds, culminating last September with their first All Ireland minor title win since 1934 with a dramatic come from behind win against Dublin.
This year’s run to the Munster title has been just as impressive for David Power’s side. They opened up their defence of the Munster title with a 2-9 to 0-8 win over Kerry in Killarney back in April, before then travelling to Cork in May and seeing off the Rebels 1-10 to 0-9. Then in the Munster final they went to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, and once again beat Kerry in the final, after the Kingdom had navigated their way through the provincial back door system in Munster. In that Munster final they found themselves trailing by 1-9 to 0-5 at the break, but thanks to a scoring run where they nabbed the last two points before the break, in a run that saw them hit 2-4 without reply from the 29th to 44th minute of the contest, they laid the foundations for a 2-14 to 1-14 win. Their goals came from the fist of Colman Kennedy, who many will remember came off the bench to score one of Tipperary’s vital scores in last years All Ireland final against Dublin, and the second came from Tom Kirwan. Other survivors from last years All Ireland winning team include goalkeeper Evan Comerford, wing back Bill Maher, midfielder Steven O’Brien and full forward Philip Quirke who also came on in last years All Ireland final and played a key role in that victory scoring three points from play.
The last time these sides met in the minor championship was at the same stage in 2009 where Mayo ran out 3-11 to 1-8 winners in Tullamore.
As for Tony Duffy’s Mayo side, they will be going into Saturday’s game in Croke Park as underdogs following on from their defeat against Roscommon in the Connacht final. Mayo too went into that game against a fancied Roscommon side and while there were only two points between the sides at the end, one statistic stood out large among all others. Not one of the starting six forwards managed to score over the 60 minutes. You are never going to win a game with that statistic and Tony Duffy and his backroom team will have been working hard with their forwards to put that to right. There are talented forwards in this Mayo set up, the likes of Diarmuid O’Connor, Sean Regan, Stephen Coen and Eoghan Lavin are all more than capable of making a big impact on any game and will be chomping at the bit to make a big impression in Croke Park. A lot will also rest on the shoulders of captain Adam Gallagher to lead the team from the middle of the park. He was the heart and soul of the Mayo performance in the provincial final scoring six of Mayo’s eight points, while at the back Kevin Lynch and Michael Plunkett have both shown themselves to be very good players at this level in previous games.
It’s going to be tough and nothing will come easy at all for Mayo tomorrow when the ball is thrown in at 3pm, but they will give it their all as they look to topple Tipp from the top.