Last Saturday evening in a windy McHale Park, the Mayo minors opened up the championship account for the year with a comprehensive 10 point win over Leitrim setting up this Sunday’s semi-final against Galway. Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser this week ahead of the game, Mayo manger Enda Gilvarry looking back on the Leitrim game said, “It’s good to be up and running, we could have done better, but coming into any championship game you’d take a 10 point win.” He also pointed out that it was a hectic week for a number of his players last week. “It was a difficult week for some of the lads, who were coming off the Leaving Cert and then facing into club championship games the next day.”
Despite the comfortable nature of the win on the scoreboard Gilvarry knows there is still plenty of work to do with his side. “Loads to improve on, in every area of play. But it was typical of a first day out for any side. We got up to pace during the game, but the conditions weren’t great and that affected the ball handling a bit.”
When these sides met in the Connacht Minor League back in the spring it was the tribesmen who came out on top by three points, but it was not as close as that in reality according to the Mayo banisteoir, but it is a different kind of football know he believes. “We learned a lot from facing them, they were a good side and probably should have won by more than the three points in the end. But there’s a big difference between league and championship football, it’s a much different proposition,” he told the Advertiser.
The change of the venue from a Galway one on Saturday to being the undercard to the replay of the Leitrim v London Connacht semi-final replay, is one that will have seen teams have to slightly alter their preparations, but all Gilvarry is concentrating on is winning the game. “Everyone was caught a little on the hop about that, but at the end of the day the game has to be played no matter where it is, and we’ve got to go out and do our stuff and play our game, and that’s what we’re concentrating on.”
Taking charge of a Mayo team in an inter-county championship game for the first time is something that can be quite daunting, but it is something that Gilvarry quite enjoyed, even if there were some nerves. “Nervous and exciting. It was hugely enjoyable, I’ve to thank the lads on the line with me for a lot of that and the players. But it’s where I want to be.”
The view from south of the border
The man in the opposition’s banisteoir bib on Sunday, is someone who will be familiar to club GAA watchers in the county following his involvement with Breaffy in the previous few years. John Donnellan has taken charge of the side this year and like Gilvarry is getting his first taste of championship action at this level. Donnellan spoke our colleagues in the Galway Advertiser and believes the Galway panel is in fine fettle to have a right cut at getting a win this weekend.
"Thankfully we have no injury worries and have a full panel to pick from for Sunday,” he says. “ We have a terrific group of lads involved on the panel and they have done everything that has been asked of them all year.
"Mayo are favourites, and with St Gerald’s winning the Connacht colleges and Davitt College winning the vocational title, we know they have a very good team. It was a very tight game between us in the league and this encounter is likely to be very similar. However we really believe in our squad and, if we get the rub of the green, we will be there or thereabouts."
Main men on the field
Last Saturday evening, Mayo’s man of the match was Breaffy’s Michael Hall whose tireless work at wing back, covering in defence and breaking forward, saw him collect the crystal on the evening. He was ably supported by the likes of Val Roughneen in midfield, captain Stephen Coen at centre-half back, and Liam Irwin at full forward who kicked five points on the day. Also showing very well was Moy Davitts man Conor Byrne who came off the bench to kick three points in the closing stages of the game, and put his hand up for a starting spot in the team. For Galway they will be looking to team captain Eoghan McCormack (Ballinasloe ), Richie Fahy (Headford ), James Healy (Annaghdown ), Cathal Reilly (Corofin ), Jason Lyons (Barna ), Michael Daly (Mountbellew-Moylough ), and Brian Shaughnessy (Ballinasloe ) to provide solid performances if they are to curb Mayo’s challenge.