Minors live the dream
Magnificent Mayo bring trophy home
SHEER class eventually told as glorious Mayo bridged a 28-year gap to defeat a dour Tyrone side at Croke Park on Sunday last. Despite the Ulster team’s attempt to prevent Mayo from producing their customary free-flowing football, Enda Gilvarry’s side eventually found a way to win out in the end.
This was a wonderful win for a Mayo side that has produced some outstanding performances throughout the year. An ability to raise their game whenever danger threatened has been the hallmark of their performances throughout the season, and this was no different.
Tyrone set out their stall with Frank Burns deployed as a sweeper. At times they used full-forward Daire Gallager in the role as well. Obviously they had studied Mayo and, realising they wouldn’t be able to match them in flair and scoring power, they set up a defensive screen from the start.
This worked for quite a while in the first half as they scored some good points without ever threatening to raise a green flag as they relied on long-range efforts.
The sides were level at three points apiece after 12 minutes, as some outstanding free-taking from Liam Irwin allowed Mayo to match the Ulster side score for score. Tyrone edged into the lead with a Ruairí McGlone point after 18 minutes, and then Tommy Conroy blazed wide with the goal at his mercy. In fairness, a nudge from a defender just did enough to put him off.
A Liam Irwin free left Mayo just a point adrift and then Tommy ‘Goals’ Conroy lived up to his nickname when he sent a great left-footed effort to the net. Michael Hall made the incision in the first instance. One felt Mayo struck a fatal blow against a Tyrone team that had enjoyed a large portion of the game but now trailed at the break by 1-4 to 0-6.
A strong opening to the second half has been a trademark of Mayo’s work all through the season, and so it was again last Sunday. Immediately on the restart, they threw away their inhibitions and went for victory. Conor Loftus scored an inspirational free from the Cusack Stand side of the ground that was a signal to all and sundry that Mayo meant business.
They scored a further 1-3 inside the next six minutes without reply. A Tommy Conroy effort after he beat four players was the pick of them. Mayo had a let off when a ball rebounded off the crossbar after Mark Mulligan came off his line.
Then, eight minutes into the half, Darragh Doherty underlined his penchant for goals when he found the net after a great flowing move. This left Mayo in the lead by 2-8 to 0-6 and well on their way to the win.
It looked like the Tom Markham Cup was halfway home. Then, inexplicably, Mayo went into their shell. Midfield momentarily lost out as Tyrone began to dominate. They rattled off three unanswered points. Conor Loftus scored a great point to leave Mayo five points clear.
Tyrone enjoyed their best spell of the game as they attacked incessantly. However, Mayo’s defence were terrific in thwarting their best efforts. David Kenny in particular was outstanding as he defended heroically.
It was very much a case of Mayo matching anything Tyrone had to offer. In the final ten minutes, the Connacht champions produced some great points, with Tommy Conroy scoring two and Conor Loftus and sub Conor Byrne adding the others.
Tyrone kept Mayo on tenterhooks when an unusually quiet Conor McKenna added an injury-time goal. But it was a little too late to prevent Mayo from bringing the cup across the Shannon.
This was a victory for a great group of players that bought into the philosophy of their diligent management team. They improved in every game and showed wonderful skill and fortitude whenever danger threatened. There were no prima donnas on board, with different players producing the goods at various stages of the competition.
They were led by a great captain in Stephen Coen. Enda Gilvarry, his selectors and back-room team have been wonderful in bringing a great team of young men to the pinnacle of minor football.
Cian Hanley will be disappointed that injury prevented him from contributing on the day. However, his efforts early on in the campaign helped Mayo in no small way to the eventual success.
Minors live the dream