“Whatever hurdle I put in front of them and as much as I push them, they seem to get stronger with each hurdle I put in front of them.” Is what has most impressed James Mitchell, the Mayo minor trainer and selector about this years crop of minors. Mitchell’s training and input to the side has been signposted by his manager Enda Gilvarry as one of the key reasons that Mayo will be throwing down against Monaghan on Sunday lunchtime in Croke Park.
Their four wins so far in this years championship, have seen two very tough examinations against Galway and Roscommon sandwiched between two very impressive victories over Leitrim and Westmeath.
Gilvarry, himself a former All Ireland winning minor, has a fairly clean bill of health going into the game and expects any worries to clear up by Sunday, saying “It’s another big challenge, another step. We seem to be going well. We’ve a couple of knocks as there always is, but they'll probably disappear as they always seem to do in the week before championship, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Despite winning the quarter-final in Tullamore by double digits, there is still plenty of room to improve according to Gilvarry. “There is no secret that we weren't happy with the last quarter and how it went, in that we should have taken a few more scores. Having said that, full credit to the guys, they won an All Ireland quarter-final by 11 points, we can't be too picky.”
Each game brings a new test and level of commitment from the players, and Mitchell believes they have responded and risen to every challenge so far and will do so again on Sunday. “With each game we've played we've got stronger, and they've even bonded tighter as a group, and that's very important and in training it makes it easier the harder you're pushing them the tighter they are as group. They're very driven to prove that they can accomplish on the training field and in the game. I couldn't ask for another ounce of intensity out of them and that showed in the games. Galway tested us and we finished strong after extra time, Roscommon tested us after we had got the start and we finished strong in that match, we asked questions at half-time in the Westmeath match and they came out and they responded to it as well. Anything that has been put in front of them, they responded very well.”
Commitment to the cause is key to success so far
The players’ commitment to the cause has made his and all the management jobs easier he said. “It makes training easy for us, and we've said to them from day one, the more ye challenge us, we'll challenge ye, and after every game I'm the one to bring the lads down to earth as quickly as possible without letting us getting carried away.”
Everyone who has been part of this year’s minor squad has played his part Gilvarry believes, even those who are no longer in the squad and will be watching from the sidelines. “The guys that we have in the squad have played their part equally well, they work hard. Each and every one, including some guys who are not with us anymore, they have worked extremely hard and risen to every challenge.”
In the county there has always been a huge interest into the minors each summer and a lot of attention paid to their progress. Gilvarry hopes that this will continue, and see the thousands of Mayos who will descend on the capital hit Croke Park for throw in time on Sunday for his side’s game. “It's a huge honour to be a minor as it is in every county, but in Mayo we seem to have a special affinity towards the minor team. It's hugely supported and we hope it continues.” He put out a special call for everyone to be there at 1.30pm on Sunday. “It will be very important for us that the supporters come in early, I know the Mayo supporters always travel in big numbers and we'll ask them all to come in early to support us.”
As for being at this stage of the competition and whether he expectes to be here, Gilvarry was very clear on his thoughts. “The easy way of answering that is yes. Because when we first sat down way back in October to try and get this job, we realised that because of the honour we have of being a Mayo minor management team, and the honour a long time ago of being a Mayo minor ourselves. I come from an era where Mayo minors were expected to contest All Ireland series every year and I don't think that has changed.”