Minors not for moving
Gilvarry’s men keep grip on Kilcoyne Cup
HOW often have we heard the old adage – goals win games? Mayo produced two of stunning quality in defeating Roscommon in the Connacht Minor Football Championship final at MacHale Park, Castlebar on Sunday last. Any resemblance between the Mayo team we saw against Galway in the semi-final in Tuam and the one that defeated the young Rossies was, it seems, purely coincidental. Mayo showed three changes in personnel from the official programme, including a dramatic recall for Ballaghaderreen’s Seamus Cunniffe for his first championship start since last year’s All-Ireland final. Also called up were Belmullet’s Gary Boylan, who has been on trial at Glasgow Celtic as well as playing soccer with Sligo Rovers, while Stephen Brennan of Claremorris, a member of last year’s panel and a substitute in the Galway game, was also in from the throw-in here. Obviously, Enda Gilvarry and Co had identified the glaring weaknesses that were apparent against the young Tribesmen, and as a result took the necessary remedial action. As minor finals go, this was a great advertisement for the game, as both sides produced a free-flowing spectacle, laced with quality football and some great scores. In the aftermath of their All-Ireland success last season, the Mayo management has produced another exciting side with just two of the starting 15 from last season’s success, and at least five from the panel. That they have gelled so quickly into a formidable unit is a testament to the planning and quality work undertaken within the management structure. Mayo was clearly the better team in the opening minutes of the game, as they rattled off 1-2 without reply early on. Brian Reape and Conor Byrne kicked the points, with Cian Hanley scoring a brilliant goal after Stephen Brennan provided the assist. The captain was inspirational from start to finish and led by example all day. For my money, he was man of the match. That the goal came so early in the game galvanised Mayo and drew an immediate response from Fergal O’Donnell’s men in the shape of three great points from Hubert Darcy, Noel Gately and Fergal Lennon. Gately was a real thorn in Mayo’s side as he tested the fibre of the home defence with some mazy runs. The remainder of the half was ultra-competitive with each side dominating the play in turn and sharing the scoring. Mayo added a further six points from Gary Boylan (two, including one free), Cian Hanley (two), Brian Reape and Conor Byrne. Roscommon’s points were scored by Noel Gately (three) and Luke Carty (two). Mayo led at half time by 1-8 to 0-8, which was about right given the way the play had panned out. Roscommon dominated the opening minutes of the second half and added two pointed frees from Kevin Smyth to reduce the deficit to one. Just as quickly, Mayo showed their ability to hit back in response with points from an outstanding Brian Reape and sub Conor Kilkenny. Roscommon then enjoyed their best and most productive spell of the game, and looked as if they would gain revenge for last season’s reverse. Points from Kevin Smyth (free), Noel Gately, Luke Carty and Hubert Darcy sent Fergal O’Donnell’s men ahead on a score of 0-14 to 1-10. Mayo really answered the call, as they responded with their best football of the hour, and in the process held Roscommon scoreless for the remainder of the game. They scored a further 1-6 without reply, giving an indication of the total control and domination they enjoyed at that juncture. Brian Reape scored a great goal after Sharoize Akram and Cian Hanley combined to put him through. The Moy Davitts man kicked three more points, with Fionán Duffy (two), and TJ Byrne adding the others. Mayo’s strong finish was an endorsement of their fitness, strength and conditioning. It’s onwards and upwards once again.
M Flanagan; J Forkan, S Cunniffe, E O’Donoghue; S Brennan, B Duffy, S Conlon; G Walsh, M Ruane; S Akram, C Hanley (1-2), G Boylan (0-2,1f); C Byrne (0-2), TJ Byrne (0-1), B Reape (1-6).
Subs used: C Kilkenny (0-1) for M Ruane; F Duffy (0-2) for C Byrne; K Hopkins for B Duffy; M Ruane for G Walsh.
S Mannion; M Flannery, B Stack, J Casey; E Fallon, E McGrath, F Lennon (0-1); T Butler, R Raftery; D Connaughton, L Carty (0-2), K Bannon; N Gately (0-5), H Darcy (0-3), K Smyth (0-3, 3f).
Subs used: C Murray for T Butler; J Fahey for D Connaughton; J Connaughton for E Fallon; C Callinan for K Bannon; B Kelly for H Darcy.
Referee: J Molloy (Galway)