POSITIVE APPROACH Mayo Under-17 football manager Seán Deane is pictured talking to Aidan Cosgrove during a Ted Webb Cup match in 2019.
IT’S one thing preparing senior inter-county teams for the demands of knock-out championship football. It’s another thing entirely getting teenagers (aged 15 to 17) ready for the same experience. Throw in the restrictions and limitations imposed by a pandemic and things get even more complicated.
Seán Deane, Mayo’s Under-17 manager, knows all about it.
The former Kiltane footballer was appointed back in January and on Friday evening he, his management team, and the 32 players in the Mayo minor squad will get the chance to show what they can do. Their Connacht quarter-final against Roscommon is ‘win-or-bust’.
A victory keeps Mayo in the mix for a shot at a provincial title while a defeat ends their season.
The safety-nets of round-robin groups and backdoor systems don’t apply in 2021.
That’s what makes Friday night’s game such a high-stakes game for both counties.
But you won’t hear anything of the sort around the Mayo camp, because that’s not how Seán Deane and his support team and the players are approaching this at all.
“We’re looking for a performance against Roscommon,” he told The Mayo News.
“The lads’ drive, hunger and attitude is second-to-none. They prepare well for training and matches, and I have no doubt that they will be ready.
“If we can bring the energy and work-rate that we’re showing in training to Hyde Park on Friday then I think our performance can be good.
“It’s about going out to play a game against Roscommon,” he added.
“We’re happy with where we are. The lads have worked exceptionally hard and the management team have worked hard. There’s a great bond within the team and the group.
“We’ve got a great family ethos and we encourage everyone to talk, and to talk to each other.
“We’ve said from the start that we win as a team and we lose a team.
“We intend to be back in MacHale Park training on Tuesday night. We don’t talk about Roscommon because we have to focus on ourselves. We’re process-driven and everyone knows their role. We’re working on what’s within our control and I think we’re getting to a good place.”
Seán Deane has assembled an impressive support team that is comprised of Shane Conway, Gary Ruane, Shane McCann, Martin Costello, Michael Gallagher, Danny O’Toole and Shane Nallen, the goalkeeping coach. Cill Chomáin’s Eoghan McGrath looks after the squad’s strength and conditioning.
Like every other team in the competition, Mayo’s preparations have been ‘challenging’ due to Covid-19 restrictions and public health guidelines that make team-building and team-bonding extremely difficult.
But they have trained hard, travelled far and wide to play challenge games, and Deane says he couldn’t have asked for more from the young footballers, their families and their clubs. “We’ve been working with the players for less than eight weeks; we did heavy sessions on Tuesdays and a lighter session on Thursdays. Then the lads had club games on Fridays and we’d play a challenge game on Sundays.
“So it was a very heavy schedule for the players, but their attitude, commitment and focus has been 100%. They have been brilliant, and their families and parents have been very supportive of what we’re doing.
“We believe in the squad we have, it’s about playing with no fear,” he explained.
“One of the philosophies we have is, ‘Don’t be afraid to make a mistake’. We all make mistakes, and when we do we learn from them and try not to repeat them.
“We have tried to create a very positive environment for the players and, given the short time we’ve had to work with them, we know we’ve got to keep our game-plan simple.
“But the main thing is that we play to our potential and the lads enjoy the experience.”
THE Mayo Under-17s will be captained by Seán Morahan (Castlebar Mitchels) while the vice-captains are Fiachra Cruise (Moy Davitts) and Conal Dawson (Westport).
Connacht Minor FC quarter-final
Roscommon v Mayo
Friday, July 23
Hyde Park at 7pm