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5 great Mayo minor memories

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GIANT STEPS Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea goes past Kerry’s Jonathan Lyne during the 2008 All-Ireland Minor Championship semi-final replay at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick.Pic: Sportsfile


Feature
Edwin McGreal

1 1999 Connacht Final

THE senior final that followed at Tuam Stadium has gone down in Mayo GAA folklore, but the minor game beforehand was quite something too.
It was an horrendous day, traffic was chaotic, but those who got in for the minor final saw Mayo strike a huge blow over rivals Galway.
Captain Pat Kelly’s winning speech didn’t put a tooth in it.
“The Galway captain said when they won the League that this wasn’t the time to be winning cups. Well, I’ll tell ye … this is the time!”
Mayo had been hurting after being dumped out in the first round by Galway in 1998 and JP Kean’s team were men on a mission.
They stood up and were counted on a day that was as much a test of character as footballing ability.
Goals from Eoghan Gallagher, Barry Loftus, and a sideline kick from James Gill, which slipped through the fingers of Joe Bergin, propelled Mayo to a 3-3 to 1-6 win.
Gavin Duffy lorded matters at midfield while players like Paul Coady, Billy Joe Padden and the Dillons showed well. Mayo would go on to win their semi-final against Cork, before a Benny Coulter inspired Down beat them in the final.

2 2000 All-Ireland semi-finals
FOR long stages of the semi-final with Westmeath, it looked like the same old story as Mayo missed chance after chance. Conor Mortimer fired a penalty over while Mayo hit the crossbar twice and the post once when going for goals.
They were three points down with less than one minute to go when they finally hit the net. Dwayne Flynn’s shot across goal was picked up by Paul Prenty who gathered and finished to send the game to a replay, 1-9 apiece.
In a packed Carrick-on-Shannon, Mayo won a low scoring game by 0-7 to 0-6 with a late Conor Mortimer free proving decisive.
However, Mayo went on to to lose the final to Cork.
JP Kean’s Mayo side had plenty of future seniors including Dermot Geraghty, Conor Moran, Enda Devenney and future All Stars in David Clarke, Alan Dillon and Conor Mortimer.

3 2005 All-Ireland semi-final
A BRILLIANT second half display saw Mayo cruise six points clear of Kerry with five minutes left, but in the end they had goalkeeper Shane Nallen (goalkeeping coach of the current Mayo minors) to thank for not losing.
Kerry had whittled the gap back to a solitary point when Kieran O’Leary bore down on goal, but Nallen’s outstretched hand denied him and Mayo had done enough, just.
Eugene Ivers’ side had lost the Connacht Final to Galway but bounced back with a quarter-final win over Armagh.
An Aidan Campbell goal saw them lead here by 1-5 to 0-7, and a third quarter burst inspired by substitute Séamie O’Shea combined with a Nallen penalty save saw them take control.
As many of nine of those who played would play senior championship for Mayo and while Mayo lost the All-Ireland Final to Down, five of their squad would be All-Ireland champions the following May. Ger Cafferkey, Tom Cunniffe, Chris Barrett, Séamie O’Shea and Aidan Campbell all started for the Mayo Under-21s in their win over Cork.

4 2008 All-Ireland semi-final replay
“The only pity is that every single Mayo GAA supporter wasn’t there to see it. To watch a team from our county play with substance and style, the heart and the head. To admire a group of young men that played with none of the baggage that sometimes weighs heavily on the shoulders of Mayo teams. Last Saturday at the Gaelic Grounds was one of the great days.”
The start of Mike Finnerty’s match report does justice to one of the finest displays by a group of Mayo footballers. After a draw in Croke Park, Ray Dempsey’s men met Kerry in Limerick and blitzed them, 3-13 to 1-8.
There were five -star displays from Aidan Walsh, Cathal Freeman, Rob Hennelly, Kevin Keane, Aidan O’Shea and Shane Nally.
It was followed by two spectacular All-Ireland finals against Tyrone, with the Ulstermen eventually winning after extra-time in the replay.

5 2013 All-Ireland Minor Final
It was an incredible feeling.
The final whistle sounds in this game, the ‘Green and Red of Mayo’ rings out and tens of thousands of Mayo fans are in Croke Park.
It was like a glimpse into the future if Mayo could triumph two hours later and the sense of hope was palpable.
Dublin quashed that dream and the minor success nearly got lost in the senior sadness.
The homecoming the following evening for the victorious minors and vanquished seniors was bittersweet, but the minor win was a massive breakthrough, Mayo’s first All-Ireland at the grade since 1985.
The full-forward line of the late Darragh Doherty, Liam Irwin and Kiltane’s Tommy Conroy lit up Croke Park, with 2-9 fairly evenly spread between them.
Conor Loftus was electric at wing-forward, Diarmuid O’Connor immense at midfield, Stephen Coen rock-solid at centre-back while around him Eddie Doran, David Kenny and Michael Hall kept things tight as Mayo won 2-13 to 1-13, an injury time goal from Tyrone’s Conor McKenna leaving Mayo jittery before the final whistle.
This year is Mayo’s first All-Ireland Minor final since and let’s hope they can follow in the footsteps of the ‘Class of 2013’.

 

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