Gary Ruane in his playing days for Mayo. PHOTO: SPORTSFILE

Ruane helps Mayo players stay focused

IN Gary Ruane, the Mayo minor footballers have a man they can bounce ideas off when it comes to playing on the big stage.

Ruane brings his wealth of experience to Sean Deane's backroom team and whatever happens on Friday, win or lose, he's convinced the players themselves will still see the bigger picture.

"Even though we're in an All-Ireland final, if we lose it you would hope some of them will go ahead and represent the county at Under 20 level and go on to senior level.

“When you're in a final you want to win, of course, but if it doesn't happen that's a part in life. They have to continue on as winners (in mentality)."

From the outside looking in, it seems like a particularly talented bunch and Mayo supporters would be hopeful that many of the players will go on to greater heights in years to come. "Oh definitely," Gary agrees. "There's talent there, like there was talent in last year's group. There's undoubtedly talent there this year and they're willing to learn. We're lucky to have such a long year that learnings can be taken from every game we played, and that will stand to these players in the future as footballers."

I put it to Gary that apart from winning the final, the best thing that could be taken from the year is the experience of playing and winning so many games – in marked contrast to last year. He agrees.

"We're fortunate to have these championship games and the team has grown and grown since (the start of the campaign). You would have seen it even in the matchday squads and in the 24 – it has been changing all the time. There are lads putting their hands up all the time and improving week on week. It doesn't just stop in the middle of it. Lads are improving all the time. That showed the last day, where there were two different lads added into the 24."

While the Moy Davitts club man admits Mayo have a particularly impressive forward division this year, as a defender in his playing days he's quick to hightlight that success starts from the back. "They (forwards) are good scorers but I think all over the field they team is good. The forwards won't score unless they get the the ball. They need the ball inside, so whether that's coming from the midfielders or the half-back line, I think that it's a team process for the forwards to get the ball. The forwards aren't going back and winning the ball themselves. It starts from David Dolan (goalkeeper)."

On a final note, Gary says: "It's another game along the way. It's a journey we've been on. We've spoken to them about that. It's a game we want to win, but it's just another game, it's on a football field, not a different environment. They're well used to it."

We've been used to them winning games all year and they look well capable to winning one more come Friday evening.