Cillian’s brace books minor final return

team photoAt half-time in today’s minor semi-final against Down at Croke Park, our prospects looked about as bleak as the outlook for the afternoon’s weather. We had been comprehensively outplayed in that opening 30 minutes and we were damn lucky to be going in only two points adrift. We had been beaten up a stick at midfield, we had failed to win virtually every one of our kickouts and the meagre amount of ball we had got had been hoofed cluelessly inside where 100% of it was gobbled up by the Down backs. We had scored just a single point from play – which came midway through the half from the boot of Darren Coen – and but for the excellent free-taking of team captain Aidan Walsh, who scored from four placed balls in that first half and ended up with six pointed frees to his credit, we’d have been further behind at the break. Indeed, had it not been for the tigerish defending our backs had done throughout that opening half, Down would have had at least a goal on the board at that stage and, had this happened, it’s difficult to see how we would have found a way back into the contest.

At that point, when the Rounders exhibition match was underway out on the hallowed turf, it looked as if the match could end as a contest fairly soon. However, had the Brother and I then encountered a soothsayer in the lower Cusack spinning a tale about how the match would cant decisively in our favour within seven minutes of the restart, we’d have taken him gently by the arms and deposited him in the care of the Croke Park stewards imparting, as we did so, our advice that said seer needed to spend a while in a facility bordered by high walls.

But, of course, that’s exactly what happened (the way the match turned, not our meeting with some prophesying wizard lad) when Ballintubber’s Cillian O’Connor imposed himself decisively on proceedings by scoring two goals inside three minutes shortly after the resumption. The first arrived after Aidan Walsh had landed his fifth free of the day just after the restart and it came when the Ballintubber man won a race with the Down keeper for a ball that had been booted forward into the danger zone. He flicked it coolly past James Deeny and the ball rolled gently into the corner of the net to put us two points ahead.

We were still coming to terms with being to the fore in a match where we’d looked decidedly second-best up till then when O’Connor pounced again. He first won the ball and fed sub Jack McDonnell whose effort rebounded out to O’Connor who calmly gathered it and smashed it into the net, thwarting the efforts of the Down keeper and corner-back Darragh O’Hanlon who dived towards each other in a vain attempt to intercept the goalbound leather. Sweet Lord and His Holy Mother, we were now five up and starting to look, well, like winners, that’s what.

Action Shot 2The next ten minutes were crucial because – as we saw with the seniors against Meath in the quarters and as we’ve witnessed so many other times in the past – it’s often the case that a team is at its most vulnerable when it thinks it has just won the Lotto and it has started to plan about how best to spend all that nouveau largesse when some fecker on the opposing team comes along and does the equivalent of letting you know that that 6 you thought you had was really a 9 and suddenly all your riches are gone. That was a long metaphor, I know, but so too was the period (seven minutes) between Cillian’s second goal and the game’s next score and, even more importantly, this score was another one for us, in the shape of a point from play by Alex Corduff, which stretched our lead to two clear goals.

Indeed, a full ten minutes had elapsed between the time that Cillian’s second rocket hit the net and Down finally got a score on the board, their first of the second half. But then another five minutes went by and John Carney, who had just replaced Alex Corduff, scored this point from play to push us back to six ahead with only nine minutes to go. This close-in free from Aidan Walsh, which was replied to in kind by a late Down free, closed out the game’s scoring in what the records will show was a comfortable enough six-point victory for us. And, especially for those of you who for whatever reason couldn’t make it to HQ today, this was how the match ended:

While we’re on the topic of on-the-spot atmospherics, here’s the post-match audio report I did while the chisellers were savouring our success by getting stuck into the Magnums.

In analysing how that second half unfolded, it must, of course, be noted that Down had plenty of chances to claw their way back into the game but they made the fatal error of trying to do so solely by scoring goals. They repeatedly eschewed opportunities to pick off points and instead kept trying to work themselves into a position where they could shoot for goal. But, just as we’d done in the first half, our backs were more than happy to soak up this pressure and even when Down did manage to breach our backline they found our keeper, Kiltimagh’s Michael Schlingermann, in truly superb form. One stop in particular, which came with around eight minutes to go when a goal for them would have halved our two-goal advantage and have given us a decidedly nervous final few minutes, was out of the top drawer and it ensured that, when the end did come, it would do so with our lads well ahead. Schlingermann was definitely my Man of the Match today.

Apart from him, Aidan Walsh’s dead-eye free-taking was, just like it was last year, a pure joy to behold. Any team that fouls us within fifty yards of their goal is going to know all about it and the fact that Aidan’s six points corresponds exactly to our margin of victory shows just how important the captain’s contribution to our winning total was today.

So too was Cillian O’Connor’s explosive three minutes early in the second half. The Ballintubber dangerman hardly saw the ball in the first half and didn’t see a whole pile more of it either after netting his two-goal haul but his intervention was more than enough to alter the course of the game entirely in our favour. If he does the same in the final, we won’t complain.

after the winOh yes: the final. We’ll be able to keep ourselves in check over the next three weeks by telling ourselves that today’s performance (by which we’ll mean our first half effort) wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to beat Armagh in the final. That may be true but what we can be sure of is that, ragged and all as it was, today’s showing was more than good enough to see off Down and so book our place in the minor final for the second year in a row. Armagh will be a totally different game but I doubt very much that what we saw today will have much bearing on how we perform against the Ulster champions on All-Ireland final day.

And won’t it be great, assuming the ticket hunt is successful, to be there once again at HQ on All-Ireland day? So often, we hear from people who hail from counties who never get to experience seeing their team in action in Croke Park on this annual Day of Days that our lot as supporters is a “long suffering” one. Sure, we’ve had plenty of heartbreak on All-Ireland final days in the past but all those losses are already gone from us and every new final we get to offers us a fresh chance to claim an All-Ireland title. What Mayo supporter would not want to be there at Croke Park to see this happen? I for one will leave no stone unturned to make sure I’m there on September the 20th in case this one is the day when our luck in All-Ireland finals at last starts to turn.

16 thoughts on “Cillian’s brace books minor final return

  1. Great win by the minors. I must say after seeing them in the Conacht Final drawn game, I did not think they would get this far. We keep coming back in Mayo. I’d say its’s been a while since we were not on a minor, u-21 or senior final. No doubt someone has that stat. Our records of contestating All Ireland finals is pretty impressive.
    How the hell have we not won an All-Ireland since 1951?

  2. It was actually in 2007 but we’ve certainly been involved in a fair few All-Ireland finals this decade. We have to start winning a few and this one would be a great one to win.

  3. Well today’s result makes a change for Mayo. Usually its Mayo playing all the football and the opposition winning the match. But today was surely a fine example of it being on the other foot for a change. Our goalie, Schlingermann was surely man of the match and therein lies the reason for the final scoreline. I do not wish to criticise young players of this age but from a team point of view they seemed to be very poorly prepared for the most part. We played second fiddle to Down throughout and midfield was non existent. So there was no supply of ball to our inside forward line who had looked like they alone had the beating of their direct opponents. The fact that our only forward to score from play in the first half was replaced at half-time does not auger well on any of these problems being ironed out before the final.
    Please, somebody tell me he was injured otherwise we’re doomed. But then again just maybe Schlingermann will come up trumps again the next day but that’s an awful lot of pressure on one young man in Croke Park

  4. Fair play to the lads…Hopefully they have what it takes against armagh. Think they will know themselves that there is loads of room for improvement. Ray Dempsey will have to sort out the passes from one half back line to the other. Far too much giving the ball away today. Michael schlingermann was incredible. Whatever it is about us as a county the lads have to forget about ‘the mayo factor’ with finals and just get on with it. Best of luck to them.

  5. I was surprised by the second half turnaround by the minors yesterday. In fairness they bear the stamp of Dempseys pragmatism. A plain hard working side who battle to the last…untypical Mayo. Anyway the panel on RTE, especially Brolly were scathing enough about Mayo. Now in a way I like Brolly, he was once one of our most ardent supporters but like many Mayo disciples he got scorched once too often hence his zero tolerance of us now.
    Then I watched the Des Cahill show. I dont like pasty faced Des, plays to the populace and is sniffy about Mayo. Anyway, as they reviewed the Kerry Meath senior match Joe was giving most of the credit for Meaths backdoor run to Christy Cooney for giving them handy draws. When he came to the quarter final match v Mayo Joe actually burst out laughing, presumbly that the laughter was brought on by the notion that surely Meath had to beat a flaky Mayo side.
    It was embarresing. I was embarresed as a Mayo man watching this and to see that no one could challenge him. Part of me agreed with him as well and that angers me.
    On reviewing the minor match Tommy Lyons another spoofer, came out with the rubbish about this being a huge sized Mayo side and like last years outfit also big. Cue more sniggers and jokes. Then he said something that alarmed me. Apparently the Mayo County Board decided a few years ago to concentrate on breeding bigger footballers for the team.
    It would suit the Mayo Board to concentrate on running their leagues and championships and leave the selection and managing of their inter county teams to people thta actually know something about football. I am still getting over the embarresment about thir vote against players grants when EVERY other county had nodded them through. Then we had the girlie spat where the boys wouldnt let the PRO into the dressing room lest her eyes be offended by what she might see.
    Sorry for the diversion, where was I? Yes, Tony Davis finished it off with sense. Mayo gotta win this final, too many lost etc, build up a culture of winning just like Tyrone in those grades. For the record since 1999 (10 years) Mayo minors have reached 5 finals, the U21s 3 finals, the seniors 2 finals, the clubs 4 finals. We are ahead of most counties, no Derry or Dublin amongst that lot yet Joe Brolly can laugh at us and we have to take it! Maybe I am the sensitive type and should take up a more leisurily hobby.

  6. I didn’t watch The Sunday Game but Brolly actually was continuing his theme from the live broadcast. He had to be prompted by O’Rourke to give credit to Cillian O’Connor for his goal (concentrating on why the Down goalie should have stayed on his line). O’Rourke could be heard in the background saying Ah Joe give credit to the finish.
    When analysing Meaths chances he talked of the easy path to the semi and of Mayo said (ah sure everybody beats Mayo accompanied by loud guffaws).

    He has issues with us it seems.

  7. Let’s harness this energy and let it loose next year – particularly if we meet Derry!

    Keep the Faith!

  8. Yes Brolly does have issues with us, and as Ger Loughnane has said in the past, “until you put up, you have to shut up”, and much as it pains, thats what we have to do. Hopefully someday we’ll be in a senior final, he’ll still be on the panel, he’ll be laughing at us and we can take great pleasure in shoving it up his hole. i dont know where it comes from, although it seems to have started with McDonald and Mortimer and their flamboyant hairstyles. Now theres a bit of “kettle, this is pot calling, your black too” about him taking umbrage with that given his penchant for blowing kisses etc in his playing day, but thats the first time I remember him being openly critical/insulting of Mayo (I think it was the 2004 Connacht semi V Galway), and his hairdressers comment. Unfortunatley, until we do put up in a senior final we have to put up with it.
    Kevin Mc Stay didnt help us yesterday either with his “Kerry are in a bad place” comment, and to be honest I dont know what he is going their as a co commentator. Held up to the cold light of day his playing coaching record doesnt hold itself up to scrutiny to be able to comment on potential All Ireland winners/what it takes to win Sam, and that is really his job. That might sound harsh but the pre-requisite on the various panels and so on seems to be, have a Celtic Cross in your arse pocket at some level (playing/coaching). Kevin cant have the same level of credibility as he hasnt done that. Again that might be harsh but you just know thats where the likes of Pat Spillane and Brolly are coming from.
    However, Brolly is wrong in his general disdain for all things Mayo. I agree with on the road, If you take all mens grades over the last 10 years, senior club, U-21, minor and senior, Mayo has to be in the top 3 (if not top) counties in terms of wins and losses in championship games. We have a paltry return of silverware for that (1 All Ireland), but it does deserve some respect and we should all remember that irrespective of what Brolly or someone like him says. However perception is reality and until we’re winning regularly on the biggest of days, we have to put up with this shite.
    As regards the minors themselves, in fairness to Ray he has put some serious backbone in this team, and last years team. That seems to be the mark of him and I for one think he deserves to be given a shot at bigger things over the next few years. Anyone can take a talented bunch of minors a fair distance but he seems to be adept at making a team more than the sum of its parts, and God knows thats something we’ve been lacking over the years. From this vantage point, having been at both games I think Armagh will beat them but thats never been a reason not to give it a lash, and during the first day against Ross I presumed that team wouldnt be going anywhere. But they seem to learn from their mistakes, never give up, and always keep trying. You cant ask for more than that so they have a chance and much as I would love them to win, I wouldnt get too upset if they lose so long as they are competitive. They have allready over achieved this year as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure they wont be thinking like that and rightly so, Armagh will have pressure on them, favourites and its a long time since they won one, so they’ll give it a lash. Feck me that was a long post.

  9. Have to agree about many of RTE’s panelists downright disrespectful and sniggering tone towards Mayo – in the words of Kev Keegan “I’d love it if we beat ’em…”. Even Lyster was getting in on the act; expect nothing better of Spillane and Brolly. It’s totally unacceptable, even TV3 don’t go in for this continual character assassination – hopefully Ray and the boys will strike a blow for the red and green. I saw Armagh in the flesh last week and they looked good, but that would make a possible victory all the sweeter!

  10. well done to the minors and good luck to them in the final. I hope as many supporters go to the final, they deserve our support.

  11. Was great to be in Croker yesterday, there were a few of the faithful in Section 308 in the Lr Cusack. It makes a change to see a Mayo team outplayed and still win.

    I thought we looked very sluggish in the first half. We seemed very slow to the ball and were very lazy about marking – the Down number 8 was on his own on numerous occasions.

    On yesterday’s performance we could be in for a rough day against Armagh, but minors can be funny.

    On the subject of how analysts view us, they only reflect how the rest of the GAA view us, somewhere between scorn and pity. Until we perform on the big day, that view is not going to change.

  12. slingermann is a fine keeper ! a fantastic second half from mayo , i remember in 1985 when the lads from our parish who played on that minor vistited our school , what stands out in my mind is that barney rock had used a hammer and nail to carve his name into the bottom of the cup!

  13. You should have given us a wave, Sixpointsup – there was a gang of us in Section 308 in the lower Cusack as well!

    In relation to analysts’ views and all that, personally I’d blame RTE who – lumbering, lazy, semi-state that they are (relying, as they do, on licence fee income to survive) – are too bone idle to freshen up their GAA programming. Look at their so-called league coverage – a tournament they ignored until TG4 started doing live broadcasts of games and where their (RTE’s) Sunday evening highlights programme is a pure joke. Likewise the way they ignore the club championships.

    The live Sunday Game is the same format, with largely the same old faces for years. To paraphrase that TV licence ad (don’t get me going …), we’ve heard all their shite and no-one of it works. I don’t often agree with Liam Hayes but his scalding criticism of The Sunday Game the other week was spot on.

    It’s time for RTE to up their game significantly and that should mean a clear-out. I mean FFS Michael Lyster has been doing the same gig for a quarter of a century and, boy, does it show. I’d get rid of him for starters and replace him with that nice Evanne wan (a Gabby Logan-esque move) and then shift Anthony Tohill and Dara O’Cinneide onto the live slot (the two best panellists they have and, coincidentally, the ones least infected by the smart-arse bug that the rest of them have) and use the Sunday night show to unearth some new talent. Des is doing okay there, I reckon, and he’d be well up to the job of breaking in the next generation of panelists.

    Will any of this happen? Put it this way, if these clowns were running the railways, there’d be even more bridges collapsing than the ones that are already!

  14. God, we should have arranged to meet for a pint out the back of the stand – I was in section 308 too! 🙂

  15. I agree RTE is a shambles.
    On the midday news on tv they talked about Colm Coyles team before the semi final
    They mentioned it 3 or 4 times
    There is rarely any team news or football talk on the radio in the morning—instead we get the latest cricket news.
    I feel comentators should not be on when their own team is playing-they have to be biased-by all means interview them as a side show.

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