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The Mayo junior adventure came to an end in Croke Park on Saturday afternoon, when a far classier Kerry side put them to the sword without much fuss to claim the All Ireland junior crown.
Cathal Freeman who will lead Mayo out tomorrow is a player who has seen numerous injuries hamper his attempts to break into the senior fold properly, and only for another injury last year which saw him miss his club's senior championship games made him eligible for this year's junior campaign. "As someone said to me there's benefits to being injured, I've had a topsy turvey couple of years, between everything that's happened," he joked last week. But Freeman is confident that he's well on the road to being injury free and getting back to the top level of the game, adding: "Between breaking bones and tearing muscles, but these things sort themselves out, if I keep doing the right thing and I've got fantastic people looking after me, like Liam Moffatt, Mark Gallagher and Martin McIntyre. If I keep doing the right things and listening to those guys and mind myself properly there'll be no problems at all." Injury also ruled out the Aghamore man from the Connacht final win over Galway back in May.
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 they are far better known for their small ball game, the black and amber Cats from Kilkenny are standing in Mayo's way of reaching the All Ireland Junior Football Championship final tomorrow afternoon in Tullamore. Kilkenny who only field a football team at junior level have progressed to this stage of the competition after winning the British junior crown, travelling over and back to Great Britain for all their games this summer so far. In the final of that championship they saw off the challenge of Scotland to book their final four spot.
The Mayo juniors picked up what the county will hope is the first of a few Connacht titles this year in style in Sunday in Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada against Galway. Sean McLoughlin’s side edged out Galway in a free flowing contest that saw both sides play open and attractive attacking football. Killala’s Andrew Farrell struck the all important goal 18 minutes into the first half when he finished from close range after Belmullet’s Eoin O’Donoghue went on a ranging run through the heart of the Galway defence. The wing backs strike for goal came back off the underside of the crossbar into the waiting arms of Farrell who made no mistake when the chance presented itself. Mayo had to deal with the loss of their captain Cathal Freeman who wasn’t able to make the game after picking up an injury in a club game last weekend, but that loss didn’t phase them.
The Mayo junior footballers will go looking to claim the first provincial title of the year for the county on Sunday lunchtime when they face off against Galway in the Connacht Junior Football Championship final in Carrick-on-Shannon. Seán McLoughlin's men booked their place in the provincial final last weekend thanks to a 2-10 to 1-10 win over the defending champions Sligo in James Stephens Park in Ballina. Sunday's game will be the curtain raiser to the senior championship meeting between Leitrim and Galway, the winners of which will face Mayo in the senior semi-final in five weeks time.
Live coverage from Celtic Park where Mayo take on Derry in the National Football League
“Work hard, that was it, simple as that. We wanted fellas to work hard.” That was the mantra to his players before the game from Mayo joint manager Pat Holmes last Sunday after his and Noel Connelly’s side had seen off the efforts of NUIG in the opening round of the FBD League.
Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly got their senior management tenure off to a winning start in Elverys MacHale Park on Sunday. The fare on show wasn't anything that will be remembered for long, but it got a few miles in the legs of a a couple of new and some returning faces in green and red.