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The curtain came down on Mayo’s involvement in the All Ireland series last Sunday as Tony Duffy’s brave and battling minors bowed out in the All Ireland semi-final. But 62 days on from Pearse Park in Longford and their senior counterparts’ exit from the championship in the first round of the qualifiers, how far has the shaping of the future of Mayo football gone since just after 9.30pm in the underbelly of the stand in Pearse Park, when John O’Mahony announced that he was standing aside after four years?
Tyrone 3-10 Mayo 0-16
Mayo have named an unchanged starting 15 for their All Ireland semi final against Tyrone, however manager Tony Duffy will be sweating on the fitness of two of his starters ahead of the big game. Both centre half back Conor Walsh and corner back Brendan Harrison are doubts for the game. “We might not be able to get our full strength starting 15 out on to the field for Sunday but we will be giving the lads every opportunity to make Sunday's game,” Duffy told the Mayo Advertiser earlier this week. Even if the two defenders do not make it Duffy is more than confident in the players he has in reserve. “We’ve got a great panel of 32 lads now and every one of them is working as hard as they can to put themselves in contention for a spot on the field, if the lads don't make it I'm fully confident in they guys we have to come in being more than capable of filling the gaps.”
Mayo manager Tony Duffy has named his side for this Sunday's clash with Tyrone in the All Ireland semi-final in Croke Park. Duffy has named the same 15 as started the All Ireland quarter final win over Offaly in Hyde Park at the start of the month. However there are injury doubts over both Brendan Harrison and Conor Walsh ahead of the game.
A Saturday just after midday may not have the feel of championship football, but that’s what it will be for the Mayo minors tomorrow. After overcoming Roscommon, Leitrim, and Galway to claim their third Connacht title in a row, the next stop on the train is Hyde Park and meeting with Offaly. The midlanders were surprised in the Leinster final, where Longford put in a match winning display against a team who had beaten them by 22 points earlier in the championship in Leinster (which has a backdoor, unlike the Connacht championship). Mayo manager Tony Duffy has been working hard to ensure his side do not go into the game complacent after winning the Connacht title. “We’ve had three tough championship games so far, we beat Roscommon, Leitrim, and Galway by only a handful of scores each time. We may have been the better sides in those games, but it was always close enough that the lads knew it was championship football and had to concentrate all the time. They [Offaly] are a big physical side, I think they were caught on the hop in the Leinster final by Longford after beating them by 22 points back in April. I’m sure their pride has been really hurt by that defeat and that they’ll have one big kick in them to prove themselves and we could be the side on the end of that kick on Saturday. It’s about us being able to handle it and play our own game.”
Last Sunday in capturing a third Connacht Minor title in a row our minor team achieved three things. First, they cheered us all up and put a little spring in our step again; second, they did themselves and their families proud — what parent does not dream of seeing his child play in the green and red for their county and then go on to win? — and third, securing Connacht titles following on from two All Ireland final appearances certainly prove that there is a steady flow of talent in the county. How we harness that talent now is a matter for another day.
While Roscommon and Sligo face each other in the senior decider, traditional rivals Mayo and Galway get proceedings underway in the minor curtain raiser in McHale Park this Sunday. Both teams have had impressive runs to the final and as always with these age old rivals, winning could come down to a bounce of the ball or even a refereeing decision.
So with the seniors out of the championship before June was finished, the u21 season over, and the Mayo ladies in an even worse mess than the men’s senior team all hope of provincial and national success rests on the tender shoulders of the Mayo minor squad of 2010. That is a lot of pressure, and that kind of pressure should never be applied to this or any batch of 17 and 18-year-olds who are still only learning their trade in the game. And the real Mayo supporter will never place that kind of pressure on the latest batch to don the green and red for the minor side, no matter how success starved they are.
If it wasn’t a difficult enough task for Tony Duffy taking over as Mayo minor manager after two successive appearances in the All Ireland final at this grade for the county, on Saturday evening it is win or bust for the year before June is even out. Duffy was the man to come out on top of a number of candidates picked by the county board to lead the Mayo minor side this year, following Ray Dempsey and his backroom team’s elevation to the u21 side. So far so good for Duffy and his backroom team of Vinnie Walsh, Liam Lavelle, and Michael Ruane, the Connacht minor league saw Mayo pick up four wins from five, the only defeat coming at the hands of this weekend’s opponents Roscommon on the opening day of the competition at the tail end of March in Ballyhaunis.