Enda Gilvarry's Mayo minors face their own "high noon" on Sunday when they take on Galway in the Connacht Minor Football Championship final in Pearse Stadium in Salthill. Mayo booked their place in the showdown with an impressive win over Leitrim nine days ago, but this challenge will be an all together tougher one for this years crop of minors.
They face a very fancied Galway side who disposed of Roscommon in Kiltoom on the same evening that Mayo were seeing off Leitrim on a scoreline of 3-11 to 1-7, with Evan Murphy hitting 2-4 over the hour and 1-3 of that coming in the opening 30 minutes of action. Galway's powerful first half display saw them lead 2-7 to 0-2 at the break. Roscommon did close the gap back to six points near the end, but down the home stretch Galway kicked another 1-3 to run out easy winners. Galway were even able to get over ending up with three players receiving black cards over the hour en route to the final. This game will also pitch the sons of two Mayo legends lining out against each other with John Maughan's son John in the green and red corner, and Anthony "Larry" Finnerty's son Robert, a highly rated full forward, in the maroon and white corner.
The Galway defence is marshaled by the highly rated San Mulkerrin, with Earnan McDonagh sitting in the number six shirt another impressive performer, while Ross Murphy and Sean Raftery will hold down the middle third. Up front the aforementioned Finnerty, along with Finnian Ó Laoi and Desmond Conneely, will make up the full forward line, while Barry Goldrick, Evan Murphy, and Ryan Forde in the half-foward line will give Mayo plenty to think about.
But of course Mayo have plenty of talent themselves with Ryan O'Donoghue the star man for Mayo kicking 3-4 in the semifinal against Leitrim, the Belmullet livewire showed composure, pace, and the killer instinct in taking his goals in that game. The Westport trio of Paul Lambert, Oisin McLaughlin, and Colm Moran are all top quality, with Lambert putting in a great shift in the semifinal covering acres of grass, while McLaughlin chipped in with a three points from play. Shrule-Glenncorrib's Nathan McGee showed a great poacher's instinct in nailing his goal chance in that game, and if he gets the chance on Sunday he'll be fully confident of finding the back of the net again.
The middle diamond of Matthew Macken at centre-half-back, with Colm Murphy and Nathan Moran manning the middle third, and Ross Egan in the marquee number 11 shirt will all have to have big games if Mayo are going to come home with a 40th Connacht minor title. All four players are more than capable of stepping up to the plate. The full back line will have their hands full, Donovan Cosgrove will have to be in control directing Cathal Horan and John Cunnane on the flanks to make sure they are touch tight to their men.
The minor grade is always a tough one and the big day can get to players, but with the knowledge that they have at least an All Ireland quarterfinal to look forward to no matter the result on Sunday, we can hope that it will free the Mayo lads to go out there and express themselves and not get weighed down by the pressure of a provincial final.