It may have taken only two games to get this far, but come 2.30pm in Ennis tomorrow and the chance to win a Celtic Cross over the next 60 minutes, every ball will be contested as ferociously as if it were the senior equivalent in Croke Park on Sunday September 23.
Mayo are back in the All Ireland junior final for the first time in over a decade and are looking to win the title for the first time since 1997, when they beat tomorrow’s opponents Kerry in the same venue to claim their second title in two years. They were then under the guidance of Billy Fitzpatrick who managed the team for two decades.
But this current crop of Mayo juniors are under the tutelage of Moy Davitts’ club man John Kelly who has been over the side since 2011. It has been a long drawn out process for Mayo to get this far, they started off their campaign in the Connacht final against Galway way back on Sunday May 20 when they won the Connacht final on the under card of the Roscommon v Galway Connacht senior football championship quarter final. From then on it was a long wait until the August Bank Holiday weekend when they travelled to Manchester to take on Lancashire in the All Ireland semi-final where they saw off an exiles side with quite a number of Mayo natives in its ranks. Those two wins have now put them into tomorrow’s showdown with the men from the Kingdom and a chance of a little piece of history. Their opponents have had a longer championship run, having to account for Tipperary, Cork, Clare, and Cavan two weeks ago in the All Ireland semi-final to book their place for Saturday's showdown.
Mayo will be looking for their experienced heads to lead the way, with players like Liam O'Malley who has a number of years under his belt with the senior side being a key man in defence. Islandeady's Ollie Feeney has been there and back a few times over the years with club and county at this level and will give no less than the 100 per cent he always offers. Davitts Ronan McNamara has plenty of class and quality to hurt the Kerry defence, and captaining the side he will have extra motivation to drive his side on to victory. McNamara and his club mates Fergal McGrath and Aiden McTigue will also be looking to get one back over the Kingdom after losing the All Ireland intermediate club final to Milltown-Castlemaine at the start of the year in Croke Park. McNamara will lead the side from the middle of the park alongside another Islandeady man Peter Collins, who himself has All Ireland final experience having being part of the 2005 minor side which lost to Down.
Other players who Kelly will be looking to deliver are Swinford's Colin Dempsey who has been their go to man in the inside forward line and Bonniconlon's Alan Egan on the half forward line who has plenty of ability to trouble the Kerry back line.
It promises to be a tough encounter against a Kerry side which had to grind it out against Cavan for a long periods early on before they got the upper hand in their semi-final. But with a little bit of history at stake for each Mayo man involved, they will be leaving all they have on the pitch in Ennis tomorrow afternoon.
All Ireland JFC final
Mayo v Kerry,
Cusack Park, Ennis
Throw in: 2.30pm