Getting to run out on the field in Croke Park and representing your county is something that every player grows up dreaming about and last Sunday, two of Mayo's minor football hero's, captain Cian Hanley and goalscoring ace Brian Reape were full to the brim with excitement after doing just that.
Hanley who missed last years minor final victory after getting injured in their semi-final win over Monaghan had smile across his face talking after the game. “It was a great feeling we knew it was going to be a tough game from Armagh, to come at the end of that first half and get the lead. We went on at the start of the second half an kicked the first two points I think, it really settled us down and we pushed on from there” he said.
As for being one of only three players who played in Croke Park last year, he took on the leadership role with delight he went on to say. “I loved it out there, to come out there and give the advice to the younger boys and go out there and lead, it was the same as the other boys who were here last year, it was a great feeling and hopefully they learned from us and will go on.”
For Moy Davitts corner forward Brian Reape it was his first experience of playing in GAA headquarters and he just lapped it up saying after that, “It was brilliant going out there and playing in Croke Park, I know the lads from last year were telling about it. It was my first time playing out there, obviously we have that experience now going on. But it won't be much of a factor at the end, once the game is on, it's about just going and playing out there.” As for having more nerves than normal before the game because of its venue, Reape reckoned the key to their win was just treating it as another game. “You're always nervous before a game, I think the most nervous I was about any game was the Galway game, because it was our first game. But since then, it's been Ok, we got used to it and playing in Croke Park you feel it a bit more, but once the games on you kinda forget about it” he said before to go on to say, “the last ten minutes, that when it starts to tell, the legs start to hurt a bit more, it's really big out there. The stadium itself, I wouldn't mind that, a stadium is a stadium, it's the pitch itself, when your playing on it's a bit bigger. But you're boosted by playing in Croke Park, you play that little bit better, I think. It was great that we were able to play here.”
While Hanley said that, “We didn't want to play the game, with it being a big crowd and big stadium. We just wanted to go out and do what we normally do and we'll come out on the right side.”
Both players were keen to put the win behind them and get back to work ahead of their semi-final showdown with Hanley saying that, “training has been going well and we knew we'd a big performance in us. Against Galway we didn't show how good we were, we got better against Roscommon and we know as it goes on we're going to get better and stronger.”
While despite his goalscoring exploits, Reape knows there are lots of other players nipping at his heels trying to take his jersey for the next day. “There's four lads who didn't make the panel for this game and they are going to be pushing as hard as they can for the next game. It's a clean slate for us all from now on, you could be starting today and not in the 24 the next day. It's a clean slate for all, it's about getting to training on Tuesday and putting the head down and making sure that you're in the 15 or 24.”