The fixture gods deemed it fitting that Mayo would have to face Donegal in the senior quarter-final on Sunday afternoon, however they weren’t so kind as to place the county’s minor side on the same billing. Instead Enda Gilvarry’s men will be the opening act of a double bill of minor quarter finals in O’Connor Park in Tullamore on Monday afternoon, while the Kerry minors have been given the matinee slot in Croke Park the day before against Tyrone. However Mayo minor manager Enda Gilvarry isn’t complaining and is just looking forward to getting on with the job in hand. “To a certain extent we can't control the day and venue, any pitch is the same. It would have been nice to be with the seniors but it wasn't to be. It's the same for Westmeath, they would have looked forward to playing a quarter-final in Croke Park the same as we were.”
Gilvarry who has picked up a Connacht championship in his debut season, has the same deck to choose from as he had for the Connacht final, with full back, Seamus Cunniffe who missed out on that game ruled as only “50/50” by his manager of starting the game. Mayo won the Connacht title, despite losing a number of key battles on the field, but after a couple of viewings of the game he reckons it wasn’t as bad as it first looked. “I've reviewed it a couple of times, but not as much as I probably would normally have. It was a strange game, initially straight after I would have said, there were times in the game Roscommon were a better team than us and controlled more of the game than us. We've talked about that ourselves, they're the kinda things that we have to address. Looking back on it actually and it's something that all the management have come to, we were actually more competitive on breaking ball, than we maybe felt directly after the game on a single viewing of it. But Roscommon made better use of the ball and that possession and drove forward very impressively with what they did win and it is something we have to address, it is something we won't get away with again in conceding as much ground as we did.”
He has some groundwork put in on Monday’s opposition and is expecting a tough test. “I was at the Lenister final and we played them in a challenge game back at the end of May, before the Leaving Cert. Like most challenge matches it’s hard to read into it, but they're a fine side, very strong side physicality, they'll be stronger than us. The Lenister final didn't go their way, but they showed great determination when they pushed forward out of defence and they scored two goals in five minutes.”
The view from the midlands
For an more in-depth view on the opposition, we spoke to former Westmeath inter-county player and Athlone Advertiser columnist Joe Fallon reckons that his county men are going in as very much the underdogs. Speaking to him this week, he said, “When you’re looking at it straight up, you very much have to say that Mayo will go into this game as favourites, but it’s been a very good year so far for our minors.” Fallon reckons that Tommy Carr has done a very good job with his charges so far. “He may have his critics, but from the start he’s looked for 100 per cent commitment from the players and that’s what he’s got. They have a serious team spirit, which can count for a lot at this grade and they’ve had a very good run so far up to the Lenister final, which in fairness they kept plugging away at right to the end against a very fancied Kildare side.”
Westmeath will be without two players who would have been key men in their team if fit he told us. “We’re going to be missing Theo Watts with a cruciate injury and Jeremiah Sully with a broken ankle. Watts was playing very well in midfield up to his injury and Sully was doing particularly well in the half forward line. For a county like Westmeath it’s a huge blow to lose two players like that.”
As for key players that Mayo will have to look out for on Monday afternoon, Fallon pinpointed a few that will need attention. “Luke Loughlin is a very good forward and scored 1-3 in the Lenister final, while Israel Illunga has done well at the back this year. Another guy to look out for is Sam Omorkuro in midfield, he’s still only u16 this year and has a bright future ahead of him.”
This year’s Lenister final was the first time since 2000 that the Lake County had made it back to the provincial final and they were beaten by Mayo in a semi-final after a replay that year, but the success has dried up in recent years at underage for Westmeath, something that Fallon hopes this year’s run will see end. “We’ve probably had better teams at times over the years and they just haven’t gelled for whatever reason, this year they’ve shown great spirit and heart for the fight and hopefully we can build on it again next year and into the future.” Throw in on Monday is at 2.15pm and you can read our report on the game on www.advertiser.ie/mayo on Monday evening.