I wasn’t at MacHale Park yesterday evening and only heard some of the first half commentary on Midwest before heading out for the evening but the final score in the minors’ Connacht semi-final match with Galway, 3-14 to 1-3, brooks no real argument. This was a hammering of fairly historic proportions – the losing margin of 17 points equating exactly with the amount we had to spare over their seniors in Salthill two summer ago – and its shock value is magnified by the fact that few saw it coming.
The loss of two key players prior to throw-in – with midfielder David Hanley and experienced wing-forward Sharoize Akram unable to start due to injury – obviously didn’t help, nor did the departure through injury of team captain Barry Duffy early in the first half. The goal we scored, via Moy Davitts’ Liam Byrne, masked Galway’s dominance for a time in that opening period but, shorn of our first-choice midfield pairing, the visitors took complete control around the middle and used this platform to rack up a flurry of scores.
By half-time our goose was already sizzling and the three goals the young Tribesmen added after the break turned a trimming into a real thrashing. Our 2015 minor championship campaign may only have lasted an hour but I’d say everyone in our camp – on the pitch, on the line and in the stands – would have been relieved when the final whistle sounded yesterday evening.
Inevitably after such a thumping the focus will turn – as it already has in the comments here on the site – on underage structures and all that within the county. This isn’t a debate I can add anything to do, I’m afraid, as my knowledge about what’s being done at underage level relates to what’s happening up here in Dublin (where, from what I can see, loads is being done) rather than what’s going on (or not, as they case may be) back in Mayo.
The fact that we’ve done so well at minor in recent years – including claiming what I’ve always felt was an under-celebrated Tom Markham Cup success in 2013, arriving as it did under the dark shadow of yet more All-Ireland final misery at senior level – lends weight to the argument that all can’t be bad at minor level. Set against this, though, a 17-point thumping in a Connacht semi-final suggests fairly strongly that a serious look needs to be had at this area, not least given the way that our fortunes have also gone so far south at U21 level in recent years.
So yesterday evening’s result means that it won’t after all be a double provincial decider between ourselves and Sligo at Hyde Park in a fortnight’s time. And, for the first time since 2011, this year the county won’t be featuring in the All-Ireland series at minor level. After the magnitude of last night’s defeat, however, we can’t really have any complaints about such an outcome.