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As we expected Cork are our opponents for Sunday’s All-Ireland Quarter final which promises to be a great day out for Mayo Fans albeit a long day. The minors take centre stage at 12 noon followed by the seniors at 4pm. I have heard rumblings as to why the Mayo senior game couldn’t be on at 2pm, so Mayo fans wouldn’t have to spend the best part of six hours in Croke Parke. It would have been the correct course of action, imagine someone from Belmullet going to support the minors, leaving at 7am on Sunday morning and probably not getting home until the early hours. I don’t envy them, however beggars can’t be choosers and we should be delighted the minors are getting at least one game at headquarters. Last year the minor quarter final against Westmeath was played on bank holiday Monday in Tullamore, most Mayo fans won’t be present for the start of the minor game anyway as happened in Castlebar for the Connacht Final. I personally can’t wait and will watch every second of every game.
When the kids file on to the field at the full-time whistle after any Mayo game, he’s the one that most of them flock towards and he’s invariably the last one to make his way to the dressing room after signing jerseys and posing for photographs, fresh after the battle. Being marked out for stardom in the GAA since he was a minor sensation is something that Aidan O’Shea has had to live with for the past number of years and at the age of 24, he’s in his sixth season as a main stay in the Mayo team and he admits that in his break-out year of 2009 it came a little to easy for him.
Last weekend saw the final group games in both the senior and intermediate club championships in Mayo. Speaking this week to the press, Mayo manager James Horan said that while everyone came though the club championships without major injury it does cause a hindrance for his preparation for next Sunday’s All Ireland quarter final. “You do lose significant time, unlike the Dublin or Donegal, they’re gaining a week, which is a double whammy, which we might lose here and they have a double gain. If it was standard across the board, it suits me down to the ground,” said Horan.
Mayo achieved the double/double in Elverys MacHale Park last Sunday with our minors and seniors winning the Connacht championship for the second year in a row. I could only imagine it was a bit surreal for Diarmuid O’Connor who only 12 months ago was on that minor team, and now finds himself togging with the seniors and winning his first senior medal while some of his old team mates collected their second in the minor grade.
On the Mayo Advertiser vodcast last week - all four pundits went very strongly for a Mayo win in the Connacht final. John Casey of this parish even pushed his prediction out to a six point win for James Horan's men. Hence there was no real surprise last Sunday when Mayo proved once again that they are by far the best team in this province.
Most of us travelled to Páirc Mhic hÉil in Castlebar on Sunday morning more in hope than expectation, and in many ways the game turned out pretty much as expected, with a relatively easy win for the home side.
Mayo manager James Horan was in jubilant mood after seeing his team pick up their fourth Connacht title in a row and with it the Ballintubber man still has to taste defeat in the provincial championship since he took charge of the Mayo senior team. “I'm delighted and very proud. Very proud of the achievement as are all the players. Regardless of anything else winning four in a row winning four on the trot beating every team on every occasion is something we are extremely proud of and we're delighted with the victory today” he said after the game.
Galway came to town and they huffed and and puffed but in the end they were no match for a Mayo team that went about dismantling their southern neighbors with relative ease in the end with man of the match Cillian O'Connor kicking eight points and having his hand in two of Mayo's goals that booked their passage to the All Ireland quarter-final on the August Bank Holiday weekend. Mayo were smarter in almost every area of the field and ran out deserving seven point winners with Aidan O'Shea dominating the game from his centre half forward berth for long periods of the contest. Even when Galway looked like they could get themselves back into the contest the rub of the green wasn't with them as Shane Walsh who kicked seven points for the Tribesmen saw his effort for a goal come crashing back off the bar just after the restart.
With plenty of time still to go before Sunday’s showdown with the Tribesmen, James Horan along with Keith Higgins and one of the new guns in his panel, last year’s minor captain Stephen Coen were in relaxed mood, when they sat down to meet the press. However Horan picked the two players to accompany him on press duties is something only the manager knows, but in choosing both Higgins and Coen he was flanked by the last two Mayo players to captain the county to All Ireland glory. Higgins in 2006 with the u21 team, and Coen last September in Croke Park with the minors.
Mayo head into Sunday's Connacht final looking to win four Connacht titles in a row for the first time since 1951.