Mighty Minors are into the final

Semi-finals are, as the saying goes, for winning. And that’s what Mayo’s Minors did today at O’Connor Park in Tullamore, as they got the better of Kerry by 1-8 to 0-9 in the All-Ireland MFC semi-final.

It was an extremely nervy encounter, which was understandable given all that was at stakes for both sets of young players. This meant loads of mistakes, unforced errors, misplaced passes and plenty of wides but what it also meant was an hour and more of hugely honest endeavour from both sides.

In the end, it was our lads who did enough to advance to a first Tom Markham Cup decider since we last won it (as an U18 competition) back in 2013. In the final we’ll meet Galway, a team we’ve already beaten twice in this competition but who, by virtue of victories since over Dublin and today over Derry, battled back to make it to the final.

A novel decider that will be, as it’ll be the first ever all-Connacht All-Ireland final to be contested. Our lads, by virtue of their seven-match unbeaten run to the decider, will be the favourites but that’s unlikely to count for much when the ball is thrown in at Croke Park.

But back to today’s win, a victory we probably should have secured easier than we did but which in the end we saw out in what was a tough, low scoring contest.

Kerry looked the more assured team for much of the first half. They owned the ball for long stretches and were confident in possession, repeatedly offloading the ball to players coming at pace, as they pushed us back and forced us on the defensive time and again.

We got the day’s opening score – a free from Colm Keaveney – but they scored three on the bounce during that spell when they pretty much owned the ball.

This game wasn’t the first one where we were slow to get the scoreboard moving – as I recall, the evening we hosed Galway in the group stage, it was the second quarter before we got motoring – and that’s what happened today too.

Our twin dangermen, Ronan Clarke and Niall Hurley, were both being marked tightly but these lads don’t need a second invite when chances come their way. On the 17th minute, opportunity came knocking for Ronan Clarke, who gathered a free in from Diarmuid Duffy and the Moy Davitts man stuck it in the net.

Kerry responded immediately. They were level within seconds and then tacked on two further points, one of which could easily have been a goal but for a superb save by ‘keeper David Dolan who deflected the ball over the bar. That was just the first of three separate goal-saving interventions by the Balla netminder.

They lost a player to a black card seven minutes before the break and we soon began to profit from the extra space we now had. Points from Ronan Clarke (a free), Dara Hurley, Jack Keane (a real monster score hoisted up into the tricky wind) and James Maheady in that spell saw us go in two points to the good.

From early in the second half we looked the likelier to prevail but it was then that the error count rose sharply. We had a number of chances to open them up as we broke from defence but repeatedly coughed the ball up and allowed them to counter.

It was then, though, that our defence stood tall. John MacGonagle and, in particular, Lorcan Silke were superb at the back for us and, of course, those saves that David Dolan pulled off were, literally, the difference between winning and losing.

We got the first score of the second half, a free from Ronan Clarke after the same player was fouled. That put us three in front and that was the margin we maintained for most of an increasingly frantic second period.

Kerry cut the gap to two on 40 minutes but we responded immediately, Colm Keaveney knocking over a nice point from play.

Another Ronan Clarke free, this time for a foul on James Maheady just outside the square, stretched our lead to four. The way to the final was now, it seemed, starting to open up for us.

We didn’t score again after that, though, but despite soaking up plenty of Kerry pressure, they only added two further points to their tally as we edged it by two points at the finish.

So, for the first time in nine years, we’re back in a Minor decider. That’s a long gap between finals for us but we will, by virtue of our unbeaten run to the final, be favourites to seal the deal. That said, it’s a derby final and it could, as we well know, go either way.

But it’s great to be in it and great too that this bunch of players, who have shown such promise right through this campaign, now get the chance to shoot for the stars. Well done to them today and here’s hoping they can now go on and finish the job.

Mayo: David Dolan; Rio Mortimer, John MacGonagle, Lorcan Silke; Liam Maloney, Colm McHale, Paul Gilmore; Jack Keane (0-1), Luke Feeney; James Maheady (0-1), Dara Hurley (0-1), Diarmuid Duffy; Cathal Keaveney (0-2, one free), Ronan Clarke (1-3, three frees), Niall Hurley. Subs: Oliver Armstrong for Keane, Zac Collins for Maheady, Seán O’Dowd for Gilmore, Oisín Cronin for Dara Hurley, Adam Boukioud for McHale.

Our ‘Final Whistle’ podcast for club members on Patreon is online now. Rob and I are on it from O’Connor Park and there’s also post-match reaction from Mayo manager Seán Deane and goalkeeper David Dolan. Join the club here.

37 thoughts on “Mighty Minors are into the final

  1. Great result with a nervy performance. MacMonagle looks an excellent full back and commands the line well. Up front, Duffy was massively impressive as was Clarke. The result was closer than it needed to be but beating Kerry is always difficult for us. All in all, a great result.

  2. I’m not 100% sure, Chesneychet, but you’d have to think it will be. It’s down for the same day the Derry v Galway/Armagh semi-final is on which is also the day the Tailteann Cup final is fixed for. Triple-header at Croke Park?

  3. Super result for the minors, any time you beat Kerry, it’s a good day! Real resilience and defensive discipline on show, given that Kerry dominated the opening stages and we struggled a bit on the kickouts.

    Irrespective of how the final goes, there are several long term prospects in this side. Have been hugely impressed by Rio Mortimer, Lorcan Silke, John MacMonagle, Maheady, Ronan Clarke and Niall Hurley.

    Hopefully we can do the job against the neighbours in the final.

  4. Getting over Kerry in a semi-final without playing well is encouraging. Hopefully the lads will shake off their inhibitions in the final and teach a lesson to the tribes.
    Strange system that has Galway in the final having been beaten by Leitrim and twice by Mayo. Maigh Eo Abú!

  5. U17 hurling final between Tipp and Offaly is in Nowlan Park despite the AI Senior semifinals being in Croke Park next weekend. Based on that I’d expect Mayo v Galway will be played in a provincial venue possibly the Hyde

  6. Congratulations on a very deserved victory.

    Playing blanket defence football at minor is a disgrace in my opinion and it won’t go down well in Kerry.

    Mayo look a smart skilful team.

    Best of luck in the final

  7. Great win for the minors today and its ourselves and Galway.

    They’ll know each others family trees at this stage.

  8. Mighty stuff fair play to the players, management and their families. Up Mayo!

  9. Great win, every chance against Galway – what a final that will be! – and hugely encouraging for the future.

    Some display by Derry too, I love their attitude. Take the goals and the points will come!

  10. Fair play West Kerry, a gracious post. I gather that people down in the Kingdom weren’t happy with the blanket used against Tyrone either?

  11. Thanks Willie Joe, it will be interesting to see where its fixed. Ive heard people saying about young lads big crowds etc but who knows. Mayo will of course be favourites but I wouldnt rule us out. Great to see an all Connacht final, still on in the senior too!!

  12. The minors played great football, a few bad passes but some brilliant high fielding by the backs especially , it was brilliant to see young Mayo players with such great skills. Well done, Up Mayo.

  13. That was a very tricky task today. A semi-final against a Kerry team uncharacteristically playing very defensive football was always going to present the lads with a lot of problems.

    We want to let the ball as quickly as possible to our much vaunted inside line and that was never going to be easy today. We worked it out and while it might have been more comfortable, we also know there’s more in the tank.

    This squad is a really impressive outfit. Hopefully we can finish the job in a few weeks.

  14. Congratulations to the Minors on a great victory. Any day we beat Kerry in a Semi Final no matter the grade is always to be celebrated. It was understandable that nerves played a part towards the end but today our defence was excellent.
    Now onto the final and a third win over Galway in what will be an historical occasion.

  15. Brilliant stuff from the young lads. They’ve shown they can play the game any way that’s needed.
    Eaely moved from the sideline brought the game back Mayos way with 12 mins to go.

  16. Anyone in need of 2 Lower Cusack tickets for tomorrow? 2 adult tickets, side by side, in section 304.

  17. Better team in second half but poor shooting and wrong options meant the game went down to the wire. We love to fall over the line. Lots of work to do to beat Galway for a third time. Some very promising individual performances…

  18. Well done lads. You kept the heads and played some lovely football. Great fetching, especially in backs and great support play.
    It was a tough game but you deserved to win, and win you did.
    I believe you are better than you think. Trick is to have confidence without being cocky. Believe in yourselves and play with all your heart. Very proud of what you have achieved.
    Well done to the Galway lads too… they’re two lovely teams from Connacht.
    Maigheo abú

  19. Easy to forget that these lads are 15/16/17 yr olds. An absolute credit to themselves, their families, coaches and county.

  20. There is talk of not playing U17s in Croke park finals anymore if thats the case then the suitable venue for this Connacht All Ireland final is in Hyde Park.

  21. Our Final Whistle pod from O’Connor Park is online now. Rob and I are on it and we’ve post-match reaction from Seán Deane and David Dolan on it.

  22. Great win in difficult conditions. Lots of talent to look forward to. Credit to the senior team over the years. Theses lads were gasurs going to the semis and all Ireland finals. The passion is there and ingrained in our youth.

  23. Great win today against difficult opposition from kerry,the Mayo lads still found a way.
    The final is fixed for Croke Park on July 9th on fixtures on Hoganstand.com

  24. Time for Mayo and Galway county boards to take a stand. Hyde Park the obvious venue

  25. It says on HoganStand and gaa.ie TBC for Croke Park on the 9th. Ontheditch if Galway beat Armagh tomorrow why would there co board take a stand when there seniors would be playing in Croke Park on the 9th.

  26. @Ontheditch…or possibly Castlebar, Salthill or Tuam, or indeed Dr Hyde Park as you say.. With my admittedly Green and Red glasses on, I’d make an arguable case that it would be a nice reward for the Connacht Champions to decide on which Connacht venue should hold the All Ireland final… But Dr Hyde Park would also be very acceptable.. Congratulations to Galway on reaching the final as well.. but on the day of the final my heart and lungs will be shouting for Mayo… Best of luck to both Galway and Mayo tomorrow in Croke Park, and safe traveling to all fans from Armagh, Galway, Kerry and Mayo!

  27. And if Mayo win tomorrow they will have a minor game on 9th and senior on 10th. Thats more crazy stuff. Play the game in Connacht.

  28. Can’t believe there’s people wanting to campaign to play the minor all Ireland final away from Croke park.
    The majority of these kids will never play a senior championship match in Croke park. Let them play in Croker for gods sake if it’s possible to play ahead of an all Ireland semi final. A once in a lifetime opportunity.

    As for the team itself, I reckon there is about 6 or 7 of them who can potentially go on to play senior for Mayo.
    Particularly impressed by the two 15/16 year old corner backs, silke and Mortimer.
    Diarmuid Duffy reminds me of Diarmuid o connor. He looks like a prototype modern Mayo senior player.
    Hard not to get a bit excited by a Mayo senior full forward line in 2025 of Tommy Conroy, Ronan Clarke and Niall Hurley, with ROD at centre half forward pinging balls into them…. Ok ok I’ll stop now!!
    When you add this group of 16 & 17 year olds to the 2 or 3 outstanding individual forwards that played in last years u14 A county final, which many GAA people in Mayo were raving about at the time, there is clearly a conveyor belt of very good talent on the way here. It’s not all doom and gloom!

  29. @west Kerry –
    I heard a clip of Tim Moynihan in radio Kerry interviewing the Kerry minor manager (Costello I think he is?) after the game. Tim was recently on the Ah ref pod and came across as a grand friendly chap but he was definitely having a few less than subtle digs at the Kerry minor manager about their style of play and was blaming the ref for good measure too.
    I got the sense that the heat will be on Costello in Kerry after this from the purists down there!

  30. @Grain of Rice.. Croke Park is only a pitch! The winner’s will be delighted regardless of where they play, one team is sure to lose regardless of where it’s played. I remember the joy with the Mayo team and fans in Cusack Park Ennis when last Mayo won the U21 Crown, 2016 and unfortunately for the Cork team and very few fans, it was the opposite. I very much doubt that a single player on the Mayo team cared one bit that the match wasn’t in Croke Park..I by chance met some of the still celebrating Mayo team the following day Sunday and you will have to take me at my word, .. Croke Park wasn’t even mentioned. .. And in point of fact the Tailtain Cup final Cavan v Westmeath is scheduled as the curtain raiser for the Dublin v (Kerry or Mayo) All Ireland semifinal…so that certainly puts Mayo minor’s at a huge disadvantage if the All Ireland Minor Final was scheduled for before a Galway v Derry senior semifinal which could easily happen!

  31. Well done minors. They have been the best and only unbeaten team in the competition this year. I’d urge caution though for the final. Galway have been improving.

    On the venue, the GAA are waiting to see the outcome of todays games to make a final decision.

    Gonna roll up the road this morning around 10am. Safe travels to all Mayo fans. Keep the faith.

  32. 2 lower cusack 308, Row M, seats 12 and 13 face value for sale, 086 1542152

  33. Well done the minors. Probably their least impressive display from midfield up. Hopefully the forwards can find their range in the final. Galway will look to take Clarke and Hurley out of the game and expect a more defensive, counter attacking game from them.

    Good luck to Mayo in the final. It’ll be their toughest game this year.

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