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A major chance for Mayo’s minors

Sport

THE LAST DANCE Mayo’s Ronan Clarke and Galway’s Ryan Flaherty, seen here in action during the Connacht Minor FC back in May, will meet again in Friday’s All-Ireland Under-17 Final.  Pic: Ray Ryan


Preview
Mike Finnerty

IT may be every young footballer’s dream to play at Croke Park in an All-Ireland Final, but it turns out that the Under-17s of Mayo and Galway have been deemed ‘too young’ to cope with the pressure and expectation that such an occasion on Jones Road might bring.
So, instead, the GAA fixture-makers have decreed that all roads will lead to Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon on Friday evening (7.15pm) for both teams and their supporters for the very first ‘All-Connacht All-Ireland Minor Final’.
Mayo manager Seán Deane, who admitted that Croke Park would be his preferred venue for the final in the wake of his team’s semi-final victory over Kerry, says he is ‘delighted’ with the choice of ‘The Hyde’.
Mayo’s focus is on the game, as opposed to the venue, plus the fact that they beat Roscommon there earlier in the campaign probably does no harm either.
“For these guys to get the opportunity to play in Croke Park would have been nice; for the simple reason that, obviously, minor games have always been the curtain-raiser to the senior games,” Deane told reporters last week.
“But obviously there’s a decision been made in regard to the age group being under-17, and the pressure that it will bring on young fellas, and I can understand that to a certain extent.
“I suppose the other aspect of things, and if it’s going to be an early throw-in, you’re into the logistics of overnights and so on and so forth. And again, you’re taking the age profile of these guys, 16 or 17 [years of age] into the equation.
“So maybe, in hindsight, it mightn’t have been the best thing to be in Croke Park, even though  I did say that that’s where I would like it, and I’d like for the lads.
“But we’re delighted that it’s in the Hyde.
“All our games were throwing in at about seven o’clock for the round robin and we had fantastic support. We all know that Mayo supporters are fanatical and they’ve got behind this minor team which is lovely to see. And I’ve no doubt that they’ll be there in their thousands in ‘The Hyde’ on Friday.”
Speaking in the wake of his team’s dramatic one point win over Derry in their All-Ireland semi-final, Galway manager Alan Glynn said he was thrilled that his players were going to get the shot at the title he feels they deserve.
“It’s going to be a massive occasion and a brilliant occasion, and it’s nothing less than these lads deserve,” said the St Michael’s clubman.
“I’m delighted for every single one of them because they put in a huge amount of effort and they are very focussed in on doing that Galway jersey proud every time they put it on. And we just have one more step to go, we’re delighted to be in the final.
“But finals are for winning, and we’ve got to go and win that now.”
Connacht champions Mayo go into Friday’s decider unbeaten after seven games while provincial runners-up Galway have defied the odds to qualify despite losing three matches in Connacht along the way (two to Mayo and one to Leitrim).
However, the manner of their displays against Dublin and Derry in their most recent All-Ireland series games (grinding out tight wins after tough battles) suggests the young Tribesmen have recovered well from their Connacht Final disappointment.
They beat Leinster champions, Dublin, by 0-10 to 0-7 and pipped Ulster runners-up Derry by 2-9 to 0-11 last time out with talented forwards Colm Costello (1-4) and Eanna Monaghan (0-4) doing most of the scoring damage as usual.
So Mayo’s defence will be on high alert, and looking to repeat the displays that held Galway to 0-11 in total across their two previous meetings.
Mayo also kept clean sheets in three of their last four games, with the three goals conceded against Kildare the only blot on their copybook.
The feeling persists though that if Mayo are going to win a first All-Ireland minor title since 2013 then it will be their forwards that will tip the scales, and this is where the likes of Ronan Clarke and Niall Hurley come in.
They have racked up big tallies between them all season and will no doubt be the focus of Galway’s defensive plan as the Tribesmen try to make it third time lucky.
The hope is that both teams go out and enjoy the occasion and deliver on their undoubted potential. As Seán Deane said last week, ‘it would have been nice’ for them to play at Croke Park but an All-Ireland Final is an All-Ireland Final no matter where the venue.
Mayo’s only objective now is to finish what they have started.

 

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