For the third time in five years Mayo have made their way back to the All Ireland Junior final and for the third time the men from Kerry will be standing in their way. When the counties met back in the final in Ennis in 2012, Kerry accounted for Mayo by nine points on a score of 0-19 to 1-7, and last year in Croke Park the Kingdom did for them again, this time on a scoreline of 2-18 to 0-10.
Both sides will be much changed from the sides who met 12 months ago in the final in Croke Park, with just Eoin O'Donoghue, Peter Collins, and Ronan Mallee who started the final last year, taking to the field for the start of Mayo's semi-final win over Wexford a fortnight ago. The trio of Andrew Farrell, Michael Forde, and Michael Togher all came on in that final meeting last year, and they all started against the Model County in this year's semi-final win, while Sean Gaughan who started on the bench two weeks ago also saw game time from the sideline in last year's final meeting.
Having to deal with changing personnel is something that manager Sean McLoughlin has juggled with all season, with just eight of the side selected to start their Connacht final win over Galway, starting in their semi-final win over Wexford.
McLoughlin has added in a number of the All Ireland winning u21 side from this year to the team, with Mattie Flanagan, Eoin O'Donoghue, Eddie Doran, James Kelly, Barry Duffy, and Brian Reape all tasting All Ireland glory back in April. Their youthful vigour and winning mentality will be backed up by with plenty of experienced heads, with Darren Coen, Michael Forde, and Andrew Farrell leading the attacking line for Mayo. The aforementioned trio have all had stints with the county senior team in the past and bring some very serious attacking threat.
In their semi-final win over Wexford, Mayo were pushed all the way by a tenacious Model County outfit, winning the game by six points at the end, thanks to goals from Conor Keane and Sean Gaughan in the 43rd and 49th minute after Wexford had kicked four points on the bounce after the half time break to wipe out Mayo's three point interval lead. Darren Coen was Mayo's top scorer on that day, kicking six points over the hour, and the Hollymount-Carramore man will be looking for a bit of revenge after St Mary's from Kerry beat his home club in the All Ireland Intermediate Club Championship final in Croke Park back in February. Injury prevented both Farrell, who captains the side this year, and Forde from starting last year's showpiece event in Croke Park, and both men will be keen to lay down a marker this time around in GAA HQ.
Kerry, for their part, have been shorn of all of the players who took part in last year's competition this time around as the rules dictate, but having both the club junior and intermediate champions coming from the county they'll still have plenty of quality to pick from if it's down on last year's exceptional crop. So far this year Kerry have seen off Limerick and Cork in the Munster championship, before making the trip to Manchester to take on Lancashire in the semi-final, where they were held at half-time by the British champions before a second half goal flurry saw them home with 10 points to spare, thanks to three pointers from Kevin O’Sullivan, Kieran Hurley, Niall O’Shea, and Robert Wharton.