It’s going to be a long day for Mayo supporters in Croke Park on Sunday, with the action getting under way at 12 noon when Enda Gilvarry’s Mayo minors take on the defeated Ulster finalists Armagh in GAA headquarters.
Gilvarry and a handful of his charges will have fond memories of their last time in Croke Park, when they lifted the Tom Markham cup for the first time in 28 years last September after defeating Tyrone in the All Ireland final. Their title defence could have very easily stumbled at the very first hurdle this year when they were very lucky to get out of Tuam with a win in the Connacht semi-final, thanks to a late second-half rally. The fighting spirit shown in that win looks to have cemented a belief in the squad and they took out a fancied Roscommon side by 2-16 to 0-14 in the Connacht final with Gary Boylan who made his first appearance of the year putting in a big showing and scoring two points. But it was a real team effort with captain Cian Hanley chipping in with 1-2, Conor Byrne 0-2, TJ Byrne 0-1, Conor Kilkenny 0-1 and sub Fionan Duffy 0-2. However the man of the match in the Connacht final was a player who will surely be singled out for special attention, Moy Davitts Brian Reape who bagged 1-6 over the hour.
Nothing easy on Sunday
There’s nothing certain ever about minor football and Enda Gilvarry and his backroom team know that defeated Ulster finalists are going to be a serious test. He told the Mayo Advertiser this week: “They’ve a very good side, very physical and they impressed us in the Ulster final. They got off to a horrible start against Donegal who really hit the ground running. But from the last 10 minutes of the game and on to the end they were very good and won that contest.”
Strength in depth
Mayo go into the game with a clean bill of health. Gilvarry said: “We’re going in healthy and the lads are all fighting for their places.” The addition of last year’s All Ireland winning full-back Seamus Cunniffe and Gary Boylan to the starting 15 shows the strength in depth of the squad he’s working with, Gilvarry told the Mayo Advertiser. “We’re very happy with the squad, we have the ability of all the players and the work they are all putting into this team. We’ve a good strength and depth to the squad and everyone is working towards the same goal.”
Get in early
Heading back to Croke Park after winning the All Ireland last time out is something that Gilvarry is looking forward to, but he did issue a call for support for his team from the Mayo supporters travelling up. “It’s great to be going back, but I’d like to ask all Mayo supporters who are going to the game to come in early and give the lads the support they deserve, it’s going to be a long day, but it will be a massive advantage to us to have the backing of the Mayo people in there when we take to the field.”