It’s inevitable as well as unfair that today’s stirring All-Ireland final win by the minors – who defeated Tyrone by 2-13 to 1-13 – has been so overshadowed by the senior defeat that followed it. But an All-Ireland final success at any level is a rare bird – before today I’d only even seen us claim national titles in 1983 and 1985 and that latter one, when the minors captured their last win, was of course the most recent All-Ireland won at Croke Park – and so it deserves to be celebrated as a significant achievement in its own right.
Enda Gilvarry’s lads were full value for their victory too, with that period of dominance they enjoyed from late in the first half to midway through the second proving decisive. It was in this phase of the game that the two goals came – the first before the break from Tommy Conroy, at a time when the lads really needed a lift, and the second by Darragh Doherty, a score that established what proved to be a winning eight-point lead.
That period of dominance came after a very nervy opening to the game by our lads. Tyrone were far quicker to settle – they got the game’s first score and were two points to the good, 0-5 to 0-3, with a bit over twenty minutes played. We hadn’t got going properly at all at that stage but a great Liam Irwin point from a difficult free and Tommy Conroy’s cracking goal put us in the driving seat for the first time.
We started the second half just a point in front but in a searing ten-minute spell we blitzed them with 1-4 without reply – a goal and a point of this coming from Darragh Doherty – and that, in essence was the winning of the match for us.
We should, of course, have kept the pedal floored at that stage but instead the lads shrank back into defence, ceded possession almost totally around the middle and as a result saw that nice lead whittled back to just three points with ten minutes to go. The destination of the Tom Markham Cup still looked very much up for grabs at that stage but the goal that Tyrone really needed failed to come and instead we finally lifted the siege, with two quick points giving us a bit more elbow room on the scoreboard.
They got one back but we then got two more quick ones to seal the deal and even though they managed to slap in a goal with a frantic last-minute attack, the time was up and once the ball was kicked out the Mayo crowd in a by now nearly full Croke Park rose to acclaim a rare and very welcome All-Ireland success.
In time, I think the significance of this win will be appreciated. We have a number of players on that team whom we can expect to see make the step-up to the senior ranks in due course and even though today didn’t end the way we would have wanted for the seniors, at least the minors brought that horrendous All-Ireland final day losing streak to an end, by claiming a seventh title at this level for the county. Well done lads and enjoy the acclaim you’re sure to get back in Castlebar tomorrow.
Mayo: Mark Mulligan; Eddie Doran, Seamus Cunniffe, David Kenny; Michael Hall, Stephen Coen, Sean Conlon; Val Roughneen, Diarmuid O’Connor; Conor Loftus (0-3, one free), Michael Plunkett, Padraig Prendergast; Darragh Doherty (1-2), Liam Irwin (0-4, frees), Tommy Conroy (1-3). Subs: Conor Byrne (0-1) for Doherty, Hugh Cafferty for Plunkett.