Mayo this evening claimed back-to-back Connacht Minor titles when a storming second half in Tuam saw them defeat Galway by six points. Galway had led by a point at the break but the Mayo lads won by 2-13 to 1-10 at the end of what was a highly entertaining U17 contest.
The match got underway in bright evening sunshine, so bright in fact that when the camera panned out it was impossible to these colour-blind eyes to tell the teams apart. Both wore dark tops and white shorts and so, with the glare of the sun and the condition I suffer from which the GAA takes no account of, I was in a bit of bother trying to decipher who was whom.
Our lads were also a bit uncertain early doors. Galway scored for the opening three points, settling first in this provincial decider.
Thirteen minutes had passed before we opened our account, via a Tom Lydon free. We then added four further points in short order – from Tiernan Egan, Darragh Byrne (two) and Senan Guilfoyle – all from play.
The home side responded in kind, with four unanswered scores to take a two-point lead. They added one more before the break, a score bookended by points for us from Rio Mortimer and Fionan O’Reilly, as the young Tribesmen took a one-point lead into the dressing room.
Galway got the opening score after the break. As we came forward, the shawl was unfurled – it’s depressing to see such tactics being deployed at U17 level and, to our credit, it was an approach we largely eschewed – but Darragh Beirne found a gap from which to shoot over.
The Claremorris player got our next one too, after they’d nudged two clear again. This time it was a case of quick-thinking by the player named as MOTM on the TG4 coverage, as Tom Lydon’s free came back off the upright, and Darragh grabbed the rebound and booted it over.
Gavin Forry had only just come on for Josh Carey when, after a super forward burst by Darragh Beirne, the Mitchels player was fouled in the square. Tom Lydon made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Opportunity was now knocking for us and we didn’t need a second invite. Gavin Forry pointed to end a quite brilliant kick-passing move, that saw the ball transferred swiftly from our goalmouth to theirs, and then sub Thomas Tuffy drilled the ball low and hard to the corner of the net to push us six clear midway through the second half.
To their credit, Galway battled back and their goal three minutes later briefly brought the contest back to life. That was, though, the final score they registered in this game, as we tacked on three further points, all of them frees, two from Tom Lydon and one from Darragh Beirne to seal a rather comfortable six-point win.
Tonight’s victory means we’ve now won the Connacht Minor crown for the 42nd time. Both teams go forward to the All-Ireland quarter-finals – I can’t see who we’re up against there but, you know, I wouldn’t bet against a third meeting between tonight’s two teams at some stage between now and when the Tom Markham Cup is eventually presented this summer.
Well done to our young bucks, and well done too to Seán Deane and his management team, on tonight’s Connacht title success and the best of luck to them in the forthcoming All-Ireland Series.
Mayo: Conor Meaney; James Lavelle, Eoin McGreal, Yousif Coghill; Jamie Clarke, Rio Mortimer (0-1), Fionan O’Reilly (0-1); Tiernan Egan (0-1), Shane Cunningham; Colm Lynch, Tom Lydon (1-3, penalty goal and three frees), Dara Neary; Darragh Beirne (0-5, two frees), Josh Carey, Senan Guilfoyle (0-1). Subs: Gavin Forry (0-1) for Carey, Thomas Tuffy (1-0) for Neary, Seán Walsh for O’Reilly, Conor Ryder for Egan, Ryan Gibbons for Lynch.
We’ll have a Final Whistle pod from Tuam Stadium up on Patreon later on tonight, in which we’ll be reviewing the Minors’ win over Galway.