The cornerstone of success

GAA: Connacht SFC Semi-Final

Vital cog: Colm Boyle has become one of the most vital cogs in the Mayo defence. Photo: Sportsfile

Vital cog: Colm Boyle has become one of the most vital cogs in the Mayo defence. Photo: Sportsfile

Colm Boyle has become one of the most vital cogs in Mayo's domination of the Connacht champoinship over the past four years, and he has an all-Ireland U21 medal in his back pocket from 2006 when the current Mayo management team of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes guided Mayo to victory. But the quest for the big one goes on still for the man from the borderline, and his 2015 adventure gets up and running properly on Sunday when they head to Satlhill to take on Galway.

Boyle's no nonsense, all action style of play has seen him pick up two all-star awards in recent years, along with legion of admirers for his commitment to the cause. It is hard to believe now that he was once a forgotten man of Mayo football. Boyle made his debut for Mayo back in 2008 but then fell away from the inter- county scene for a few years, until a leading role in his club's run to an all- Ireland intermediate final in 2012, under the guidance of former Galway selector Pete Warren, saw him propelled him back to the big time. Since then he has not looked back and has been one of the foundation stones of Mayo's defence.

Being from a borderline club adds some spice to the occasion, as does the fact that Boyle works in the county he will be going all out to try and stop on Sunday. Even at home there is a little bit of added intrigue as he explains: "It makes it that bit more special. My mother is from Galway so we have all that side, but in fairness to them after the last couple of years, once we got over the Mayo and Galway part, they have been fully behind us. I am working in Galway too, so I will have to keep the head down a bit in the build-up."

Mayo and Galway battles were always something that stuck out in a young Boyle's mind when he was a teenager going to see games that his current management team were starring in. "Growing up and going to Mayo games, you would always remember going to games in MacHale Park and Tuam Stadium. I remember back in 1998, Galway coming down here and Ciaran McDonald getting two goals and hitting the crossbar, then us going up to Tuam

the next year in the pouring rain and getting a win. They were regaining all- Ireland champions and we knocked them out. Games like that always stick in your head."

Mayo have had a long wait for this game to come around, but they've been using that time wisely, the teak tough defender believes. "It has been a long time, probably the longest ever between the league and the start of the championship. The previous few years we have had league semi- finals and maybe been out in the championship a couple of weeks earlier. We have had a long time to get things right, but the important thing is that we got a lot of good work done in that time period and that could be benefical to us in the long run, rather than playing games earlier. We gotachancetogetalotof good work done on aspects of our game, and hopefully we can put that all into place."

With Galway having two championship games under their belts already, they will be looking to catch Mayo cold on Sunday, but Mayo will be ready for what they throw at them, Boyle feels. "People are talking about Galway bringing a different intensity to it, but we hope to as well and that is our challenge. That is the game. It is a battle to see who comes out on top, and I hope it will be us. Games

can bring teams on. The oneinNewYorkcanbea difficult one for any team going out there. I know we struggled for long periods early on ourselves. It is just a matter of getting it done. The Leitrim game would have helped Galway in their preparation, where as our preperaiton would mostly be training based, butwegotalotofgood work done in that."

If everything is not as it should be on the day, things can go badly wrong, and Boyle knows this well. "I think any Mayo player from the past will tell you if you're going to Salthill and you are not going with the right attitude, then you are not going to come out with the result. We know we have to come out with a big performance on Sunday to come out with the win, and we are not looking past it yet. We are just looking to get what we want to be done right in the game."

Having come so close in the last few years, coming back for another crack at all-Ireland glory is something that Boyle never had any doubts about doing, and he is ready and willing to keep going as long as he can. "I don't find it hard. There is nobody holding a gun to my head saying I have to play for Mayo. None of us would be here if we did not love it. We are all going to be looking in for long enough from the outside and wondering what is going

on and wishing we were involved."

The change over in management after James Horan decided to exit following last year's replay defeat to Kerry in the all- Ireland semi-final, has seen two familiar faces walking though the gates of MacHale Park this year. When asked if he thought that playing under both Pat and Noel in the past made the transition easier, Boyle said. "Possibly. We knew their personalities before they came in. There would have been no major shock to the system. There were a few new faces from what we have had the last couple of years, but with that brings new energy, new ideas, and a new direction. We are hoping to go and grow that."

A few new faces have also made their way into the playing squad, and that is something that Boyle believes has added something new and exciting to the panel. "I suppose a few lads have been let go and younger lads have come into replace them. The key for us is that the younger lads are ready to play championship football. They are pushing everyone on, pushing for places to start on Sunday, and if they do not start they are looking to come on and finish the job. It is great for us and it is what Mayo football needs."

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