Connacht Junior Football Championship Final.
MAYO were crowned the Connaught junior football championship champions following their big win over Galway in the final in Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon, on Sunday.
It was a truly magnificent team performance and while they gave their management team and supporters many anxious moments with their wayward shooting there was no denying they were by far the better team.
Up against a very good Galway side, Mayo dominated for long periods but found it hard to turn many good scoring opportunities into scores. Indeed, such was their dominance that they could afford having 16 wides.
It was a game which had many fine highlights from a Mayo point of view. The defence, brilliantly led by Liam O’Malley and Ollie Feeney, was air tight throughout. They gave the Galway forwards very little time on the ball and made it difficult for them to score. As a result half of the Galway scores came from frees.
Up front the forwards took a while to settle and rushed their shots at times. However, once they clicked into top gear they notched up some great scores including two well executed goals from Colin Dempsey and Aidan McTigue.
But the real highlight of the game was in midfield where Ronan McNamara and Padraic McManamon ruled the roost. The two were superb throughout with McNamara’s fielding was a delight to watch.
But overall it was a top class team performance and they all deserve the highest accolade for bringing the first bit of silverware to the county this year.
But this fine performance didn’t happen over night. These lads have been training hard over the past months and have played numerous challenge games.
In this regard, manager John Kelly, selectors Tommy Francis Gibbons, Cathal Hennelly, Sean McLoughlin and trainer Vinnie Gavin, have to be complimented on the way they prepared the team for this big game and had them in tip top shape.
Although Mayo dominated the early stages they failed to make this dominance pay where it mattered most, on the scoreboard. Indeed, they had three wides in the first five minutes.
As the half wore on Mayo continued to miss many good scoring chances and by half-time they had registered nine wides.
Galway on the other hand were making the most of their chances and they opened their account with a point free by Cathal Coleman in the sixth minute.
By the end of the first quarter they had increased their lead to four after points from Coleman (two) and Martin Coady.
By the 18th minute the Galway advantage was five and Coleman raised another white flag. At this stage one was beginning to wonder if Mayo would score at all.
However, once Alan Egan finally got Mayo on the scoreboard with a delightful point from play in the 21st minute the whole game changed.
A minute later the sides were level after Enda McManamon picked out the unmarked Colin Dempsey with a sideline kick before the Swinford man coolly and calmly slid the ball past the Galway ‘keeper Neil Walsh.
Although Peadar Seoighue put Galway back in front with a fine point from play in the 24th minute it was Mayo who finished strongly. Aidan McTigue despite a half a goal chance decided to fist the ball over the bar before Enda McManamon sent Mayo in leading by the minimum, 1-3 to 0-5, with a pointed free.
On the resumption, Mayo, like the opening half missed some early good scoring chances while Galway were making the most of theirs.
Cathal Coleman levelled matters with a point free before the tribesmen went two in front in the 39th minute after Aidan Geraghty and Coleman (free) raised white flags.
By the 42nd minute Mayo were back on level terms after points from Alan Egan and a magnificent effort by midfielder Padraic McManamon.
Although Galway regained the lead in the 43rd minute with a point from substitute Kevin Reilly, it didn’t last long as two minutes Mayo scored their second goal of the game. It came after a great passing movement involving Michael Walsh, Egan, Simon Cloherty and ending with Aidan McTigue who brilliantly fired past Walsh in the Galway goals.
The final quarter was al Mayo as they began to score at will. McNamara landed a monster of a score from a long ranged free before Cloherty (a magnificent score) and Egan had the umpire raising white flags.
In the final five minutes Mayo added three more points to their tally, two from McNamara and the final score of the game from wing back Michael Walsh.
While Mayo made hard work of it at times especially in the scoring department there was no denying they were by far the better team and fully deserved this victory.
It was a great team victory with every player playing their part. They can now look forward to the All-Ireland semi-final with plenty of confidence and if they sharpen up on their scoring it will take a very good side to beat them.
Scorers for Mayo: A. McTigue 1-2, C. Dempsey 1-0, A. Egan 0-3, R. McNamara 0-3, M. Walsh, P. McManamon, E. McManamon, S. Cloherty 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: M. Coleman 0-5, M. Coady, P. Seoighe, E. Joyce, A. Geraghty, K. Reilly 0-1 each.
Mayo: P. Mannion, L. O’Malley, N. McCormack, B.Leonard, S. McDermott, O. Feeney, M. Walsh, R. McNamara, P. McManamon, A. Egan, E. McManamon, S. Cloherty, M. Moran, C. Dempsey, A. McTigue.
Subs used: J. Kelly, P. Collins, S. Kelly.
Galway: N. Walsh, E. O’Sullivan, C. O’Toole, C. Ó Domhnaill, D. Rattigan, C. Leyden, D. Reilly, A. Geraghty, R. Hughes, M. Coady, J.J. Greaney, P. Seoighe, C. Coleman, N. Meenaghan, E. Joyce.
Subs used: K. Reilly, P. Glesson, A. Molloy.
Referee: E. O’Grady (Leitrim).
Man of the match…Ronan McNamara (Mayo).