LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE Mayo’s Barry Moran lines out in his second All-Ireland U-21 Final on Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
U-21s ready to deliver on promise
Pat Holmes and his under 21 squad, Sunday’s final is the culmination of
their year’s programme, barring a draw. Our hopes go with them. They
deserve the ultimate prize. But deserving and winning are not the same
as Mayo people have learned to their cost.
Our senior footballers deserved a break in 1989, 1996, 1997 and 2004 and they were disappointed. Our under 21 men deserved to taste victory two years ago when they made the journey to Cavan only to be pipped by Armagh in the final.
We had gone in search of a consoling victory, something to soothe the wounds of an All-Ireland defeat the previous week at senior level, a boost from the dismal experience of coming so close so often and failing to grasp the glittering prize.
A memorable effort was provided by our under 21s five years ago in Sligo when they lost by three points to Tyrone. The bulk of Tyrone’s All-Ireland successful senior side was supplied by that team. Back in 1995 our under 21s took Kerry to a final replay. They had drawn with them in Tullamore, but lost the replay at Semple Stadium, Thurles.
Having reached the final of such a competition, having emerged from a rigorous training schedule, having sweated and abstained and primed themselves for one final assault on the championship, the ache of losing is an experience that too many of our Mayo footballers have had to bear.
Maybe this time victory will be theirs. They go to Ennis boosted by their unflinching victory over Tyrone at Cavan the other week. Having swept the northerners off their feet in the first half, they withstood a sustained flood of attacks, weathered the storm stoically to hold out for a draw, and in the final agonising moments nailed down victory from that last free by the ice-cool Michael Conroy. That ought to be their inspiration for victory over Cork.
There is no point in discussing Cork’s standard, because I have not seen them in action. Long ago they set themselves high in underage grades. All down the years they have been well endowed with strong and skilful players, and there is no reason not to expect similar levels from the current side.
By all accounts they are strong and resourceful, and after being held to a draw by Laois made sure of victory in the replay on Saturday. The extra match will have done them a power of good. They will be cocky . . . and perhaps a little arrogant.
It is a measure of their skill and persistence that four members of the side beaten by Armagh two years ago will be in action for Mayo at Ennis on Sunday. Trevor Howley, Aidan Kilcoyne, Barry Moran and Michael Conroy bring all that experience to Sunday’s encounter and it will stand to them in moments of crises.
There will be pressure on them, but I think they are ready. They are in good hands and I’m confident they will break that duck at last.
McDonald excels on the inside line
FOR those of us who might have begun to question his form, to
wonder had the edge become a little jagged of late, Ciaran McDonald
provided the answer in Bangor on Sunday with a performance reminiscent
of his best days in the Mayo jersey.
They started him at full-forward and he came bounding out for every ball as if unleashed from slips. In the unrelenting rain he was the jewel in a Mayo side short seven of the team that lost to Galway in the league semi-final. All the old magic was back, the chip, the jink, the accuracy. Meath’s full-back Kevin Reilly was left bemused.
For a man with a wandering streak to his gam,e McDonald stuck tight to his new position, sprinting only to meet the centre. Late in the second half he commenced to stray a bit, taking the full-back with him and providing blissful passes for those making use of the space his roving provided.
In moving away from the full-forward spot he did open the Meath defence, but much of the forward play began again to centre around him. Instead of taking their own scores some of the forwards, lacking conviction, chose to seek out McDonald to do their finishing for them. Otherwise, Mickey Moran will have been pleased with the experiment and McDonald ought to be the championship choice in spearheading the attack.
Andy Moran will have laid down a firm stake for a position on the first fifteen with his three goals. He worked hard for the goals and the hat trick will tend to diminish his first half experience when he missed a couple from easier positions. Moran wormed his way impressively into position and can have no excuse for not finishing other than a lack of coolness. He drilled one ball wide and hit the other straight at the goalkeeper a few yards from him.
Nor was Ger Brady blameless in missing two good chances of goals, one in each half. James Gill set him up for the first and in trying to tuck the ball into the corner of the net it skidded wide. In the second half, with no one but the ‘keeper near him, he did what Moran had done earlier . . . allowed Brendan Murphy smother the shot. Wasted chances of that nature can be shattering. Brady came good in the final quarter.
Fortunately, Andy Moran compensated with those three second-half goals which finished off Meath’s stubborn challenge. The midlanders are still trying to adapt to new manager Eamon Barry following the long reign of Sean Boylan who left his own indelible imprint on Meath football over the course of his twenty years in charge.
They never fail to come up with big strong men and in Barry Lynch and Mark Ward they had two towering midfielders. Against them James Gill and Pat Harte were dwarfed and yet managed to win the midfield exchanges. Hart had no alternative but to spoil, a task made easier by the soapy nature of the ball, and Mayo picked up most of the breaks.
In the absence of James Nallen, Pat Kelly was given the centre-half back role, and he picked a cracker in Joe Sheridan. Measured against a player of Sheridan’s stature, and he was by far the most impressive Meath man on the field, Kelly performed reasonably well. In the second half when Sheridan moved into the full forward line his agility for a big man, caused some problems for the defence.
Liam O’Malley filled the role of David Heaney at full-back with his usual composure, and while Dermot Geraghty in the right corner was never in the thick of the play he did competently what he was designated to do . . . police his opposite number into obscurity.
Colm Cafferkey, having his first serious outing with Mayo, performed creditably at left corner back while Aidan Higgins and Peadar Gardiner were always equal to the task.
Moran and McDonald were, of course, the stars of the attack, but Meath were also unable to counter Alan Dillon’s sensible play and talent for the quick turn. Breaffy’s Colm Lyons, having his first outing, did nothing wrong and Barry Regan linked effectively.
Other than the placing of McDonald at full-forward, there was no new pattern to Mayo’s performance. They played as they have been playing throughout the league, thriving on the short pass and sprinting support. That’s the way it is going to be. Beefed up somewhat maybe, but the template unaltered.
Kiltane club together to develop facilities
FROM the rubble of their dressing rooms has arisen a magnificent
sports complex. The explosion that ruined their togging out facilities
back in 1998 did not deter the people of Kiltane. That explosion was in
fact the catalyst that spurred them to provide for their community a
complex to match the best in the county.
Instead of rushing into providing new dressing rooms, temporary togging out areas were found . . . while a new sports complex was being contemplated. Inside six months, under the chairmanship and guidance of Richard Cosgrove and his dedicated team of workers some £98,000 was raised. With the help of grants from government agencies and other organisations, further funding was obtained to complete the building which can host a range of indoor activities including basketball, volleyball, badminton indoor soccer and tennis . . . a welcome development for the people of the area.
The weather did not smile kindly on their celebrations marking the official opening of the facility on Sunday. But the heavy rain did not deter their loyal supporters from turning up for the historic occasion, and the committee deserve great credit for their dedication and hard work in providing this splendid amenity.