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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.
Michael Plunkett wasn’t the man that you would have expected to pop up and score the winner in this epic encounter in Sligo, but the Ballintubber man showed nerves of steal to edge Mayo ahead in injury time of a dramatic encounter.
The weekend after the nation celebrated the 1916 Rising, Mayo are looking to stage their own rising in the U21 ranks and will head to the ground named after Countess Markievicz in Sligo tomorrow evening to do so. It has been seven years since Mayo last claimed the JJ Fahy Cup, in the same venue, beating Sligo 3-14 to 1-8 in the provincial decider.
Mayo booked their place in the Connacht u21 final for the first time in seven years in Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada on Saturday night thanks to a four goal haul in a 20 minute period either side of half time on a sun splashed evening.
It will be seven years this year since Mayo last claimed the Connacht u21 title. Since then Galway have gone on to claim two All Ireland titles at the grade and Roscommon have appeared in two All Ireland finals, while both of the Connacht minnows, Leitrim and Sligo, have appeared in provincial finals. In the last six u21 campaigns Mayo have managed just three wins out of nine games, all at the preliminary round stage, beating Leitrim in 2010 and 2015 and Galway in 2012 before they exited the competition at the next stage.
Michael Solan's Mayo u21s will face Donegal for the second week in a row, when they take on the Ulster men in the final of the North West Cup tomorrow in the Sligo GAA Centre of Excellence in Scardan. Both sides met last weekend in the third round of the competition in Letterkenny with the hosts scraping home by a single point on a scoreline of 1-9 to 1-8 in O'Donnell Park.
Three Neil Douglas goals eased Castlebar Mitchels to a 29th Mayo senior title on Sunday in MacHale Park, the Mitchels marksman along with Danny Kirby and Richie Feeney were too hot to handle for the Breaffy defence as their side ran out 13 point winners.