MEN AT WORK Mayo Under-17 manager Seán Deane (centre) is pictured with selectors Danny O’Toole (left) and Gary Ruane. Pic: David Farrell Photography
EVERYONE involved with the Mayo Under-17 football squad knows that the acid test is coming on Friday evening.
By the time the final whistle blows in their fourth round clash with Galway at Tuam Stadium, everybody will have a much better idea of where they stand.
The winners will qualify for the Connacht Final while the losers will be facing into a provincial semi-final.
After watching Galway hammer both Roscommon and Sligo, scoring 7-31 and conceding just 1-20 in the process, Mayo manager Seán Deane is under no illusions about the challenge.
“It’s going to be huge,” he admitted after last Friday’s win over Sligo when asked to sum up the task of trying to beat Galway. “Let’s be frank about it, Galway are playing the best football, racking up the biggest scores, and it’s going to be a huge, huge challenge for us.
“They’ll be favourites, and rightly so. And they should be favourites. They play a lovely brand of football so we’ll have it all to do to stop that juggernaut that is the Galway minor team at this stage. But we will do our level best.
“We’ll go there and, I can tell you, these guys will honour the Mayo jersey.”
Deane and his selectors Gary Ruane, Shane McCann, Danny O’Toole and Martin Costello were understandably pleased with Mayo’s third straight win last Friday evening.
They played the game on their terms, put together some lovely combinations, ran up a big score, coped with some more adversity, fixed a few defensive issues with some subtle tweaks, and withstood a few Sligo rallies to come out on top.
All in all, it was a good evening’s work.
“I thought the forwards were excellent this evening,” said Seán Deane.
“Some of the scores we got were breathtaking. Again, I spoke about the character of the side last week. And in the early part of the game we conceded a goal to Sligo, probably against the run of play.
“The way the guys bounced back from that, and Niall [Hurley] finished to the back of the net, I think speaks volumes about the character of these young men.
“You can’t forget that these lads are only 16 and 17 years of age. Their maturity just amazes me, week in and week out.
“Notwithstanding that, there are areas we need to improve on. 2-21 is a fantastic score to put up but we do know one thing, we have to go to Tuam next week. We know the prize on offer, and that the performance tonight, particularly defensively, will not be good enough in terms of beating Galway. So that’s a little for us to work on during the week.”
Mayo also handed first starts to Rory Conway (Ballycroy) and Zac Collins (Islandeady), while there was a debut off the bench for Kilmovee’s Seán O’Dowd.
Seán Deane was keen to pay tribute to the entire squad afterwards.
“The impact from the bench has been big in every single game.
“Any changes we make doesn’t weaken the team, it gives us more energy. The lads know if they empty the tank for 40 minutes then there’s another man to come in and finish the job.
“Sometimes it’s not the 15 you start with, it’s the 15 you finished with.
“That was very pleasing from our point of view. You get a jersey on your back and you want to keep it. It’s great to have that level of competition in the squad.”