Mayo minors facing a big challenge
TWO years without a Connacht minor title is hardly cause for concern in Mayo.
After all, Galway haven’t won a provincial championship at that grade since 2007 and they’re not panicking with two All-Ireland semi-final appearances and an under 21 All-Ireland secured in the interim.
It’s about player development — be that through success or failure.
However, there will always be those who simply define managerial success on the basis of trophies acquired, whatever the grade.
Mayo Minor manager Tony Duffy has his team back in the All-Ireland series after a one year hiatus and defending All-Ireland champions, Tipperary, now await in next Monday’s quarter-final.
Truth be told though, the second successive Connacht championship loss to Roscommon also lingers in the background.
“I’m not worried about what I’m judged on and I’m not too concerned about what others think either if I’m being honest,“ Duffy told The Mayo News last week.
“Winning titles is certainly a boost, we won three-in-a-row up until 2009, two under Ray [Dempsey] and the last one under me, but it’s not how I would define the job as a success or failure.
“It’s about bringing players through, developing them for senior football,” he continued. “We coach them intensely, ensure they are continuously improving and learning. I think the majority of players who play under me feel they are better footballers when they leave.”
It all makes sense, and from the very start of this season, both management and players would have had a clear target — get to August and make sure they are in the final eight.
Now they face the Munster and All-Ireland champions and a county that are rapidly redefining the football landscape at underage level.
“Tipperary have made great strides in the last couple of years,” said Duffy.
“This team has nine or ten of last year’s All-Ireland winning side so we’re in for a tough examination. I’m not going to say it’s a tougher game than facing Kerry because I think there is very little between the two of them.
“However, they have beaten Kerry twice and Cork once now and that means we are facing a huge challenge.
“The lads are up for it,“ he added. “We’ve taken the season in three phases and the league and Connacht championship is done. The All-Ireland series is phase three. We’ve got here and we’re ready to go as far as we can.”
While Tipperary racked up the scores in a shoot-out with Kerry in the Munster decider, Mayo were struggling to raise the white flag in a war of attrition against Roscommon.
In fact, only one forward, substitute James Quinn, managed to get on the scoresheet. Scoring has been a real issue for Mayo recently.
“It’s been disappointing,” admitted Tony Duffy. “It’s not a case that we’re not capable, the week before the Connacht final with Roscommon we scored 2-21 in a challenge with the Claremorris seniors, including 2-14 from our forwards. I’m convinced that if they click they can score 14-16 points.
“In both games we faced good tight defences, both Sligo and Roscommon have worked very had on that area of the game. A lot of the problem against Roscommon was we knew we needed to start well and we didn’t. We let them build up a lead and they are very hard to break down in that position.
“I was at the Munster final and it could have gone either way, there was very little between the sides,“ he observed. “There were plenty of quality scores but defending was loose with little pressure on the forwards. I don’t think any manager would be happy with the concession of that amount of scores.”
The team management expect to have a full panel to pick from for next Monday’s knock-out game.
“Everyone is giving that bit extra now,” said Tony Duffy. “There was massive disappointment with the Roscommon game and a feeling that we left it behind us. But there were positives to take from it and we’re determined to build on that.”
All-Ireland Minor FC Quarter-Final
Mayo v Tipperary
Saturday, August 4 at 3.00pm
Referee: Fergal Barry (Kildare)