A MINOR LIFT Mayo minor footballers Eddie Doran and Seamus Cunniffe celebrate after beating Galway in the Connacht MFC semi-final last Sunday.
Goals win epic game
THERE are several components that are vital to the make-up of a successful Gaelic football team. Amongst them are skill, spirit and determination.
Mayo displayed all three and a lot more when defeating a talented Galway side in the semi- final of the Connacht Minor FC at Hyde Park, Roscommon on Sunday last.
Judged on any known standards this was a truly riveting game in which the protagonists were level on six occasions during the course of the contest.
Mayo prevailed in extra-time because they failed to take no for an answer, and through sheer persistence they eventually wore down a bitterly disappointed Galway side.
The young Tribesmen were strong favourites coming into the game after showing such impressive form in the Connacht League, where they had proved too strong for Enda Gilvarry’s men. In hindsight, Mayo turned this to their advantage as they improved as the game progressed and finished worthy winners at the end.
Mayo had much the better of the early exchanges as they hit three points without reply in the opening twelve minutes from Liam Irwin (two frees) and Conor Loftus, who capitalised on a weak kick-out from James Healy in the Galway goal.
Galway had come with a plan of using two inside forwards with their brilliant full-forward Eoin McCormack foraging on the 45 metre line.
It worked a treat early on as Niall Lee and Paul Mannion wove intricate patterns in an effort to unhinge Mayo’s full-back line. Lee struck with a great goal midway through the half after Peter Cooke set up the chance.
Three minutes later Cooke punched a goal from a Jason Lyons cross that was allowed even though the young attacker was standing on the goal line when he connected with the ball.
An Enda Tierney point from distance sent Galway four points to the good after Mayo had enjoyed most of the possession to that juncture.
Then Mayo showed commendable resolve and sheer persistence when Tommy Conroy beat several players to the punch in finishing a Stephen Coen bomb to the net. After Paul Mannion sent John Donnellan’s side two points up with a delightful score, Darragh Doherty scored a great goal after Tommy Conroy’s effort hit a post. It was tit-for-tat to the interval as Peter Cooke added two Galway points with Tommy Conroy replying to leave the score at 2-4 each.
The Mayo management team must take enormous credit for taking remedial action regarding the two-man Galway inside line. They swapped Eddie Doran and Seamus Cunniffe and crowded the Galway attack at every opportunity. In addition they judiciously introduced Conor Byrne and Stephen Burke in attack and both contributed greatly when the game was in the melting pot.
Even though Galway had a large portion of the play early on, their sole return was an Eoin McCormack point from a placed ball after five minutes.
Mayo edged ahead with points from Liam Irwin (free) and Tommy Conroy to send them in front by the minimum with twenty minutes left for play.
Galway gained parity with a Richard Fahy point on 57 minutes, which meant they went more than twenty minutes without a score.
Then Cian Hanley somehow squeezed the ball past James Healy after Tommy Conroy had launched a high ball towards the Galway goal.
It looked all over, but Galway came back with three unanswered pointed frees from Michael Daly, Eoin McCormack (’45, and free) to send the game into extra-time.
A Niall Lee point from a free pushed Galway ahead in the early moments of extra-time and Mayo kicked some poor wides from frees that were effected by a changing breeze.
Then, out of nothing, Conor Loftus palmed a Conor Byrne effort to the net to give the Mayo men a two point lead before the change of ends.
It was all Mayo in the final ten minutes as their superior fitness and unyielding spirit kicked in. After Mark Mulligan brought off a great save with his legs, Liam Irwin kicked two pointed frees. Tommy Conroy then put the icing on the cake with another goal after great work by Diarmuid O’Connor.
Galway’s Eoin McCormack landed the Tribesmen’s final point from a free, but Mayo had done enough to forge a heart-warming win that at times looked beyond them.
M Mulligan (Claremorris); E Doran (Achill), S Cunniffe (Ballaghadereen), D Kenny (Aghamore); R Finn (Claremorris), S Coen (Hollymount/Carramore), M Hall (Breaffy); V Roughneen (Balla), D O’Connor (Ballintubber); B Walsh (Ballintubber), C Loftus (1-1, Crossmolina), C Hanley (1-0, Ballaghadereen); T Conroy (2-2, Kiltane), L Irwin (0-5fs, Breaffy), D Doherty (1-0, Kilmaine).
Subs used: S Conlon (Castlebar Mitchels) for R Finn (inj); S Burke (Ballinrobe) for B Walsh; M Plunkett (Ballintubber) for C Hanley; C Byrne (Moy Davitts) for D Doherty.
J Healy; L Burke, C Reilly, B Shaughnessy; N McDonagh, D Moran, C Brady; R Fahy (0-1), E Tierney (0-1); J Lyons, M Daly (0-1f), P Cooke (1-2,1f); N Lee (1-1), E McCormack (0-4,3fs,1’45), P Mannion (0-1).
Subs used: J Donnellan for N Lee; D Corbett for N McDonagh; S Lawless for P Cooke; C Mannion for J Lyons.?
Referee: R McBrien (Leitrim)