McLoughlin's Mayo look to double up

GAA: Connacht Junior Football final

My ball: Mayo's Peter Collins contests for the ball against Galway in last year's Connacht Junior final. Photo: Sportsfile.

My ball: Mayo's Peter Collins contests for the ball against Galway in last year's Connacht Junior final. Photo: Sportsfile.

In an often forgotten grade, Mayo are looking to pick up their second Connacht title in a row on Sunday in Pairc Seán Mac Diarmada, the ground named after the Leitrim native and Irish revolutionary who was executed 100 years and eight days ago for his part in the Easter Rising.

This year's final pairing of Mayo and Galway is a repeat of last year's final in the competition, but much has changed for both sides since then, with only a handful of those who lined out in last year's decider on hand again on Sunday afternoon. Mayo backed up that win last year by reaching the All Ireland final only to come undone at the hands of a very slick Kerry outfit in Croke Park in the national decider.

Mayo started their title defence a fortnight ago with a hard fought win at the end over Sligo in Enniscrone, it was a game they looked to have well under control for long periods until a late Sligo fight back saw Mayo trail by a point in injury time. Mayo were awarded a penalty and rather than take the easy option of clipping the ball over the bar for a point and taking their chances in extra time Darren Coen stepped up and drove the ball to the back of the net to send Mayo straight into the final.

Sean McLoughlin will be looking to Coen to lead Mayo on the field along with a number of familiar faces. Mayo have a very potent looking attacking unit at his disposal with Coen supplemented by Killala's Andrew Farrell (team captain ), Michéal Forde from Ballycastle, Kiltimagh's Ronan Malee, Mayo Gales' Adam Gallagher, and Moy Davitts' Sean Kelly.

At the back Shane Nallen kept goal for Mayo the last day, and while the former Mayo underage goalkeeper is plying his trade on the field for his club Belmullet in recent times, he is a very good keeper with a great boot on him. At the back McLoughlin can call on three Hollymount-Caramore men who will be full of confidence after their club's win over Ballintubber in the senior championship last weekend, and their run to the All Ireland intermediate club final earlier this year in form of Padraig Ferrick, Barry Sheridan, and Darren McHugh. Two other impressive performers for Mayo in the defensive unit are Aghamore's Niall Freemand and their flying wing back from Knockmore, Cormac Reape. In the middle of the park McLoughlin went with Islandeady's Peter Collins and Westport's Gary Keane last time and both men will need to be at the top of their game on Sunday if Mayo are to repeat last year's achievements.

Galway booked their place in the final with a 1-15 to 1-7 win over Leitrim in Tuam Stadium on the same evening that Mayo saw off Sligo. The Tribesmen went behind early on to a Ryan O'Rourke goal, but led by man of the match Antoine Ó'Laoi they overcame that setback to ease their way into the final. Ó'Laoi bagged 1-4 that evening with Matthew Reddington chipping in with four points over the hour. Galway went in leading by 1-7 to 1-3 at the turnaround, but put their foot down in the second half outscoring their opponents by 0-8 to 0-4 with Ó'Laoi, Reddington, Alan Molloy, Niall Lee, and Michael Day to the fore on the evening.

The Mayo forward unit will be looking to get the better of a Galway defensive line that is manned by Aidan Claffey, Thomas Comer, Tadhg Ó Caoimh, David Wynne, Alan Kyne and Cathal Reilly, while their midfield duo of Michael Day and Enda Walsh will also need to be taken care of by Mayo's pairing in this sector if they are gong to pick up the silverware on Sunday. The game throws in at 1.30pm in Carrick on Shannon.


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