The Mayo juniors will get their big day in the sun when they take on Kerry in the All Ireland junior final on Saturday week, after the GAA confirmed the showpiece in the grade will be on the under card of Mayo's senior All Ireland quarter-final in GAA headquarters. Mayo booked their place in the final of the competition last Saturday with a 1-12 to 0-8 win over Kilkenny in Tullamore, and sets up a repeat of the 2012 final meeting between the two sides.
While he was delighted for his players that the final will be in the Jones Road venue, Mayo manager Seán McLoughlin said on Tuesday evening that the venue did not matter, it was all about winning the game. "It's everyone's dream to play there, it's a good news story but after tomorrow it's just about the game and it won't matter. What are we going to Croke Park for? Is it to enjoy the experience or to win the All Ireland? It's to win the match, the same as if it was out here or any other venue," said the Mayo bainsteoir.
To get to this stage of the competition, Mayo have seen off the challenges of both Sligo and Galway in Connacht, and then Kilkenny last Sunday, where they were given a stern examination by the Cats who had won the British championship to book their place in the last four. Ballintubber's Damien McGing was Mayo's go to man last weekend scoring 1-3 of their total, with Ronan Malee chipping in with three points from play and Ballaghaderreen's Gavin Conway kicking four points over the hour for McLoughlin's side.
One of the lynchpins of the Mayo defence is Hollymount-Carramore's Darren McHugh who was part of the senior panel earlier this year and he could not hide his delight at the news the game was going to Dublin 3. "It's brilliant, I mightn't get this opportunity to play in Croke Park again so you have to enjoy it and you have to take it. But at the end of the day it doesn't matter where it'll be played, we're looking to win the game and Croke Park is an added bonus."
Team captain Cathal Freeman was also relishing the chance to ply his trade in Croke Park in the final. The Aghamore man has played there before with the Mayo minors in the All Ireland final, and was part of the 2012 senior panel which lost out to Donegal in the senior decider. "Any day you get to go out in Croke Park is a honour and a privilege, there's men toiling up and down this country in the GAA that don't get the chance, we're thrilled to have the possibility to go out there, and for me personally to lead them is a huge honour."