The Mayo minors know it’s all or nothing next weekend
IT seems quite appropriate that on the same evening the Mayo seniors get a second chance to make a first impression in the All-Ireland Qualifiers in Longford, the county minors will get the defence of their Connacht championship title underway in Castlebar.
Appropriate because defeat, for both teams, will mean the end of their respective championship seasons. It is a day of reckoning for all concerned. The only difference is where John O’Mahony et al got a second opportunity, Tony Duffy and company have just one crack at getting it right against Roscommon. If they lose, they are out.
“If we don’t match them for work-rate and desire, we won’t win,” Duffy told The Mayo News last week. “It’s as simple as that. They don’t fear Mayo.
“A good day for me would be a one point win. A bad day would be a one point loss. There is absolutely nothing in our head bar beating Roscommon next weekend.”
Duffy, and his management team of Michael Ruane, Vinnie Walsh and Liam Lavelle have spent the last few months preparing for next Saturday night’s acid test.
They tried out 38 players during the Connacht minor league, winning all but one game (incidentally, against Roscommon) and are building this year’s team around the likes of Cillian O’Connor, Danny Kirby, Fergal Durkan and Darren Coen.
The rookie manager knows his team have “potential” but he is also aware of the unpredictability of youth, the difficult questions posed by championship and, of course, Roscommon.
“We had a fairly good league. It was satisfactory,” he explained. “I was looking for lads that were up for a challenge, lads that would listen and adhere to game-plans. Lads that want it. Ability is obviously important, but it isn’t everything.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the type of footballer that we found during the spring but whether they’re good enough or not we’ll soon find out,” he added. “I’m being asked every day how things are going but, to be honest, you don’t have a clue until the championship starts.
“All we can do is have the lads motivated, fit, and aware of the game-plans. If you ask me ten minutes into the game on Saturday, I’ll probably have a better idea of how we’re fixed.
“They’re good lads though, there’s never any problems with discipline or time-keeping, and they’re a pleasure to work with. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it so far.
“The bottom line is that we’ll have a hard-working team. That’s the foundation stone for everything else.”
Roscommon will be well-prepared by Ross Shannon, who said: “At the end of the day I would be confident. Even as a player myself you had to have that. There is no point playing football if you are not going to be a bit greedy and a bit selfish.”
However, Tony Duffy believes that if his team perform, they will still be in the championship on Saturday night.
“I’m new to all this but I’d like to think I’m a reasonably good judge of a footballer and this group definitely has potential,” he offered. “They’re a very good bunch of players and are well-motivated but it will take a huge performance, and a bit of luck, to beat Roscommon.”
Fixture Connacht mfc semi-Final
Mayo v Roscommon
Saturday, June 26 at 5pm
Mchale park, Castlebar