No room for minor errors tomorrow evening

GAA: Connacht MFC Semi-Final

Last Sunday in Croke Park, Kildare booked their place in the final of the Leinster minor championship with a swashbuckling win over Dublin. This was despite the fact the Lillywhites had already been beaten in the championship by Louth back in April. However in Connacht there are no second chances for teams, until the final where both sides are guaranteed a place in the All Ireland quarter-final.

This will be the third year that Enda Gilvarry has been in charge of the Mayo minors and in the two previous years he has tasted defeat just once, going down to the eventual All Ireland champions Kerry in last year's semi-final in Croke Park. The previous year, he brought them all the way to the top of the mountain and claimed Mayo's first minor All Ireland title since 1985. But unlike the senior grade, everything changes and nothing stays still at minor level, with a new crop of hopefuls coming into the grade each year.

On Saturday evening, Mayo will host Galway in Elverys MacHale Park for a place in the Connacht final on July 19 and the stakes couldn't be higher; it's win or bust for this year's class at this early stage of the year. Gilvarry does have a number of players from last year's collection still eligible for the grade, with this year's captain Barry Duffy from Balla joined once more by David Hanley, Liam Byrne, Shairoze Akram, and Dylan Cannon.

The sides have met already this year in the Connacht Minor League, with Mayo running out comfortable winners in Tuam Stadium on the day, but that outcome will have little bearing on what happens on Saturday evening, as both sides used the league to try out a number of different players, and various schools' competitions mean certain players are not available for selection on the day.

Even with the stakes so high, Gilvarry is relishing the start of his third championship in the manager's job. "It comes no better than playing Galway in MacHale Park. It's knock-out football and both sides will have their dreams on the line," he said last week at the launch of Connacht GAA's backing of the #littlethings mental health and wellbeing campaign.

This year's Connacht championship was predicted to be one of the most keenly contested in the province by those who have watched this year's competitors develop through the Tedd Webb competitions and the league earlier in the year. That's a view Gilvarry agreed with. "Of all the years, this is gong to be really, really, competitive. The teams that come out of it will hugely benefit from it for later challengers. The league this year was better than last year and it ended up with Sligo just pipping us to the league title."

Looking back on their league form, Gilvarry said: "Overall we had a good league campaign but we have to bring that form into the championship, if we don't we're going to be in trouble. You only have to look at Leitrim last year, they'd a excellent league then got pipped by Roscommon in the semi-final."

Followers of the Galway minors must be sick of the sight of Enda Gilvarry in the bainisteoir's bib on the sideline with Mayo in recent years. Mayo have sent Galway packing from the championship in both of the last campaigns and both of them were in epic encounters. Last year in Tuam a well fancied and very capable Galway side looked to be cruising and then a black-card changed the game and Mayo came from behind at the death to steal it. The previous year saw extra time needed to find a winner in a game that saw Mayo score an incredible five goals on their way to All Ireland glory. They are bound to feel their luck will have to change sometime against one of Gilvarry's sides. They will be hoping that Stephen Joyce can get talents such as Conor Marsdan, Liam Ó Ceallaigh, and John Daly to click on the field and get the marroon and white bandwagon rolling into the Connacht final.

If the last two installments of this game are anything to go by, only a fool won't be heading to MacHale Park tomorrow evening for what should be a cracking hour of football. Throw in is at 6.30pm.


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