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Last years beaten finalists Breaffy made it to their third Mayo senior semi-finals in four years on Saturday afternoon after a hard fought win over Crossmolina Deel Rovers in MacHale Park. Peter Ford and Shane Conway’s side were pushed right to the wire by a battling brave Deel Rovers side, with the displays by the likes of Fionan Duffy, Conor Loftus and Cathal Carolan pointing towards a very bright future for the north Mayo men. There were also very good showings for the beaten side by goalkeeper Patrick Loftus and veteran Peader Gardiner who almost caused a major surprise against a much fancied Breaffy side.
Over the next two days, MacHale Park in Castlebar will host four big games as the quarter-finals of the Mayo GAA Senior Football Championship are down for decision. Our Sports Editor, Colm Gannon previews the action.
The last eight of the Mayo GAA Senior Football Championship are now known after this evenings final round of group games. The draw for the quarter finals will take place tomorrow in MacHale Park with four seeded sides, Breaffy, Castlebar Mitchels, Ballintubber and Knockmore and the other quartet of qualifiers, Ballaghaderreen, Aghamore, Garrymore and Crossmolina Deel Rovers.
Garry’ win southern shootout
Who is ever going to forget Mayo Day 2016? Not one Mayo GAA fan that's for sure after the heroics of our U21 team in reaching the promised land and claiming the county's fifth All-Ireland title at this level. Was I confident before throw in? Not really, we knew Brian Reape was out and I heard on the grapevine that fullback Seamus Cuniffe was very doubtful because of a hamstring, and that our most influential player Diarmuid O'Connor might not be able to give his all because of a fractured finger sustained against Dublin in the semi-final. We couldn't possibly win with three key players missing or not at 100 per cent was my gut instinct. I was relieved to see Cuniffee and O'Connor taking their positions for the throw in. The buzz in Cusack Park was surreal, Mayo fans making up at least 7,000 of the almost 8,000 crowd.
With six minutes left on the clock in Cusack Park in Ennis, it looked like it might finally go wrong for this marvellous Mayo team when Brian Coakley kicked his fifth point of the day to draw Cork level with Mayo with the score 3-7 to 1-13. Cork were coming and the momentum was with them at this stage. Peter Kelleher was causing havoc inside the Mayo defensive line and the legs seemed to be going in some of those in green and red.
No matter what the competition, no matter what the grade, nothing beats the excitement of All-Ireland final day. Tomorrow just happens to be a big one in the GAA calendar. The Mayo u21s travel to Ennis to take on Munster champions Cork 10 years on from their last victory at this grade against the same opposition at the same venue. The players would have felt the buzz all week, our senior team have had to take a back seat for the last few weeks, now it's all about the U21s.
Ten years ago Mayo met Cork in the All Ireland u21 final in Ennis, and tomorrow afternoon both sides will meet once more in the same venue for the Clarke Cup at stake yet again. Mayo come into the final on the back of their first provincial title since 2009 and a heroic come from behind win late on against Dublin in the semi-final in Tullamore a fortnight ago.
For those of you who have ever been to Old Trafford to watch Man Utd I am sure you are familiar with the song about “never dying” in honour of the club’s resurrection after the tragic Munich Air disaster. I know there has not been such a tragedy in Mayo football terms but such a song would be very appropriate about Michael Solan’s Mayo u21 team. They never give up. They never die.
There was no need for the Mayo faithful who made the 300km round trip to Tullamore to switch on their radios on the way home if there was more than one happy soul making the trip back west on Saturday evening. For they had plenty food for thought and conversation after seeing Mayo produce one of the gutsiest comebacks in memory to edge into the All Ireland u21 final on Saturday, April 30 against Cork.