Minors make it look easy
All-Ireland champions cruise into semi-finals
“DIFFICULTIES mastered are opportunities won.” So wrote former British Prime Minister and writer Winston Churchill.
The young Mayo Minor footballers took some time to fathom the sweeper system used by Ulster finalists Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter- final on Sunday last, but when they did they certainly took their opportunities.
The dramatic rise and gradual improvement of Enda Gilvarry’s minor side continues unabated with an impressive win that was as emphatic as it was deserved.
And yet it took some time for Mayo to come to grips with the defensive system deployed by the Orchard County. This Mayo side is blessed with speedy, skilful forwards that thrive on utilising the wide open spaces of Croke Park, in particular.
Armagh knew they wouldn’t be able to match Mayo for speed or skill and relied on closing down space.
Fionán Duffy’s brilliant goal just before the break changed their plans as they were forced to go orthodox, meaning there was only going to be one winner.
Prior to that Armagh matched Mayo score for score as they swopped points and shared possession. In fact the scores were level on four occasions prior to the goal, which was brilliantly set up by Mayo captain Cian Hanley. Duffy showed great composure for the score, before rounding the goalkeeper.
Hanley had a similar chance prior to the goal; however he was foiled by the Armagh goalkeeper Ryan Kearney who saved brilliantly.
Mayo’s points during the half came from Matthew Ruane, Gary Boylan, Cian Hanley (2, one free), Barry Duffy, Fionán Duffy and Brian Reape. Armagh replied with points from Oisín O’Neill, Ryan McKeown, Ryan Hughes and Jarlath Óg Burns.
This saw Mayo ahead by 1-6 to 0-4 at half-time.
Mayo constantly interchanged Cian Hanley and TJ Byrne throughout, to good effect. They hit the ground running after half-time with two points from an influential Fionán Duffy.
When Caolán McConville raised a white flag in reply it would prove to be their last for a thirteen minute spell.
Seven minutes into the half the game changed dramatically following a drop kick from Armagh goalkeeper Ryan Kearney that went over the line under the Cusack Stand.
Mayo set up a brilliant move from the free that went through several pairs of hands, before Brian Reape hit the net with a sublime finish.
The goal changed the game, as from there on Mayo flourished, while Armagh floundered.
Another Reape goal minutes later that was set up by Sharoize Akram killed the game as a contest. In between, T J Byrne and Cian Hanley scored points to embellish the winner’s fine combined play. This saw Enda Gilvarry’s side suddenly go ahead by 3-9 to 0-5.
With Armagh having long since dispensed with the sweeper system, Mayo took control all over the field. They were faster to the ball, underlying their conditioning and superior fitness. With the result obvious long before the end, Mayo lost a little of their composure and focus for a while, without ever showing signs of letting the Ulster runners-up back into the game.
The defending champions gradually introduced some of their bench, which was good, seeing that many of them sampled the action at headquarters for the first time.
The beaten Ulster finalists kicked four further points from Oisín O’Neill (3) and Conor Grimley. Mayo kept ticking over with points from Seán Conlon, Conor Byrne and Óisín Horan.
Overall, this was a fine performance from Enda Gilvarry’s men.
Once again they improved from their previous outing, which underlines the quality work being undertaken by the management team. They introduced Fionán Duffy from the start,? and he showed that he has the ability and quality to perform at this level.
Hopefully, further improvement will see Mayo overcome Munster champions Kerry in three weeks’ time. For now they have gladdened our hearts with some great football.
M Flanagan; C Kilkenny, S Cunniffe, E O’Donoghue; J Forkan, B Duffy (0-1), S Conlon (0-1); G Walsh, M Ruane (0-1); G Boylan (0-1), C Hanley (0-3,1f), S Akram; F Duffy (1-2), T J Byrne (0-1), B Reape (2-1).
Subs used: C Byrne (0-1) for G Boylan (39m); S Brennan for C Kilkenny (45m); D Clarke for J Forkan (50m); L Byrne for F Duffy (65m); O Horan (0-1) for S Conlon (57m); K Hopkins for G Walsh (59m).
R Kearney; F Quinn, A Rushe, C Donnelly; C Boylan, C McKinney, C McNicholl; J Óg Burns (0-1), R McKeown (0-1); J Rafferty, O O’Neill (0-4,3fs), P Judge; R Hughes (0-1), S Conlon, C McConville (0-1).
Subs used; C Cullen for R McKeown (HT); C Boylan for Mallon (41m); C Grimley (0-1) for S Conlon (41m); C Higgins for P Judge (44m); C Murphy for C McNicholl (46m); P Quinn for R Hughes (55m).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)