Minors clinch Connacht title in extra-time

Photo: Hazel Cameron

Tonight’s Connacht MFC between Mayo and Galway was the first of four separate Championship meetings between the counties in a five-day span. If any of the other matches are anything as good as this rip-roaring encounter at Tuam Stadium then we’re all in for a treat.

It was a contest that the Mayo youngsters won by the minimum margin, on a scoreline of 1-18 to 1-17, after extra-time. That was hard luck on a brave and gallant Galway team but the greater appetite for attack and adventure shown by the Mayo lads eventually brought them the reward they deserved. Fair play to them.  

Both sides had periods of dominance in the opening half. Tomo Culhane, with a free, opened Galway’s account inside the opening minute but Frank Irwin finished a move straight from the restart to level it up.

Galway had a goal chance on three minutes, Culhane cleverly feeding Cox who shot on the run but blasted over when maybe a greater reward was to be had.

Our lads got back on terms when Galway were penalised for overcarrying and Ethan Henry’s free was diverted out for a ’45. The midfielder then drove the ’45 over to level it up.

An increasingly confident Galway started to take over as the half went on. Moving the ball with fluidity and linking the play to great effect, the home side ran hard at Mayo and the scores followed. By contrast the Mayo attacks were more individualistic, with several hit-and-hope balls pumped in long, which the Galway backline lapped up with ease.

By the end of the first quarter, Galway were four points to the good and looking well in control. Culhane was proving a menace inside and we were struggling to stay in touch.

But then the pendulum swung back sharply in our favour. We wrested control of midfield and soon we began to do some damage on the scoreboard.

Ciaran Mylett ended a long scoreless spell with a nice effort and this was followed by one from distance by Ethan Henry. Another from the same range, this one pumped over by Dylan Thornton, cut the gap to one.

Culhane was fouled just outside the large square at the other end and tapped over the resultant free but Frank Irwin, initiating a quick one-two off a free, brought the margin back to the minimum once more.

It was Frank Irwin again, after yet another long ball in – only this one being one we won, who got the next to level the match up. Then sub Rory Morrin burst forward, rode the tackle really well and pointed nicely to edge us ahead for the first time.

After a Frank Irwin wide we won the kickout and a shot on the run from Shaun Dempsey increased our lead to two.

That second point came as the half went into added time and it looked then like we’d take that lead into the break. Two carelessly conceded frees within range, however, gave Culhane two tap-overs to level it up at the short whistle.

The second half was even from start to finish, with the gap no wider than two points at any stage. Galway had the edge for a good while but in the final quarter we looked the stronger and it was then that the Galway lads flung out the shawl in earnest, seeking to smother our attacks and then hit us on the break. It was a tactic they persevered with from then right to the finish but it was to prove their undoing.

With ten minutes to go Galway were two to the good but then points from Eoin Gilraine out on the wing and Ethan Henry, after a strong burst through the middle, levelled it up.

We spurned two chances to take the lead from frees won in good positions on the right-hand side. It looked like we’d end up ruing these misses when Galway broke through late on but an effort for a point came off the upright and the ball was cleared.

Down at the other end a goal chance ended with a ’45 for us, way out on the wing. Deep in stoppage time this looked like the chance to win it and Ethan Henry obliged, his placed ball effort just having the distance.

But it wasn’t the winner. Galway burst forward again, Culhane pointing bravely to snatch the equaliser and send the game into extra-time.

On TG4, Seán Ó Domhnaill reckoned that whoever got a goal would win it. That seemed like sound reasoning.

When Galway got that goal, Culhane converting a penalty after a pull down in the square, it certainly looked like the breakthrough score. We’d got the opening point in extra-time, from sub John Grady, but they’d responded with two points before the penalty.

Our lads now really had a mountain to climb. Dylan Thornton made some inroads before the break, notching a nice score, but the shawl was now fully laid out and it looked as if we’d really struggle to get the scores we needed to win the game.

On the restart Paul Walsh pointed smartly to cut the gap to two. As events would transpire this was a crucial score.

Paul was also central to the winning score. The ball was played into him close to goal and he was unceremoniously bundled over. For the second time in extra-time the referee spread his arms for the penalty, which Frank Irwin converted with no little aplomb.

Now the May-Oh! May-Oh! May-Oh! chants began to ring around this historic old ground, as our lads sought to clinch the deal, while Galway battled manfully to haul the fat from the fire.

Galway had a wide and twice as they tried to break downfield we won stirring turnovers, courtesy of Dylan Thornton and Ciaran Mylett.

Rory Morrin – who had a huge influence on tonight’s result – let fly from out the wing, his effort deflected for a ’45. Ethan Henry – the TG4 Man of the Match and a towering performer all night for us – drove his kick narrowly wide.

Frank Irwin gave it everything from distance but his effort came up short. Deep in injury time Galway had one last chance, when they won a free fifty yards out. Culhane looked at it but passed up the chance and instead midfielder McLaughlin – who along with Culhane was Galway’s best player tonight – initiated a quick one-two and let fly from distance. His shot tailed wide, however, and that was that.

The scenes of joy among the Mayo lads were a sight to see – even if, for me, it was via the livestream online – and it was great to see them lift the cup as they claimed the county’s first Minor title in five years. Huge congrats to them.

Video: Hazel Cameron

What a start to the weekend, what a boost these young warriors have given the county ahead of the gladiatorial battle that faces us tomorrow. The long, long losing run to Galway at all levels is over. Tonight, at last, it feels as if the tide has, finally, begun to turn. Up Mayo.

Mayo: Luke Jennings; Owen McHale, Oisín Tunney, Aidan Cosgrove; Shaun Dempsey (0-1), Ruairí Keane, Eoin Gilraine (0-1); Paddy Heneghan, Ethan Henry (0-6, three ’45s); Ciaran Mylett (0-2), Ronan Hughes, Dylan Thornton (0-2); Paul Walsh (0-1), Ray Walsh, Frank Irwin (1-2, goal a penalty). Subs: Rory Morrin (0-2) for Hughes, John Grady (0-1) for Walsh, Emmet Murphy for Cosgrave (black card), Cian O’Connor for Mylett, Conor Reid for Heneghan, C Mylett for O’Connor (ET), R Hughes for Morrin (ET).         

23 thoughts on “Minors clinch Connacht title in extra-time

  1. What a super team performance, including our subs. The trend is changing in favour of the red and green
    Come on Mayo let us make it a week to remember.

  2. Brilliant result and brilliant from you as well WJ providing the link to view the match. What a service you do for us all. Having said that it was tough watching heart in mouth stuff. If tomorrow night is anything like that it will be hard to cope but at least its easier to shout at match than at screen. Anyway fair play to minors a badly needed win over the old enemy

  3. Couldn’t get to watch the livestream (the yanks are visiting), but I’ve just read that excellent report on the game thank you very much.

    The visitors fly home tomorrow and so the car is faced for Limerick.

    Ah, sure where else on this earth would yea be from but Mayo. God’s greatest creation.

  4. Even though we lost, it actually doesn’t feel too bad as it was a terrific game, both teams have some real talent coming through. No 5 in a row but no worries, will done Mayo.
    Galway have named their team for the senior..Martin Farragher and Mc Daid start..

  5. Some achievement to stop Galway doing the 5 in a row in their own back yard. Well done to all involved. An aside but Tomas Morley has something about him. Won an intermediate with Ballyhaunis a few years ago and now doing great work with the best young players in the county.
    Tomorrow will be just as tight.

  6. Great win…well done all. I really believe we will see an upward curve in underage success going forward…nothing lasts forever and Mayo ain’t falling off a cliff, win or loose tomorrow.

  7. Great win. Mayo looked better team. Could have gonw either way at the end but we hung on. And finally we have a player who can kick a fecking 45……..my pet bugbear.

  8. What a win. Thanks again Willie Joe for the live link. Watched the game up to the end of normal time. I then had to go to a function but kept in touch with the Blog. Thought we had lost it at half time in extra time. What a bunch of warriors they turned out to be in the 2nd half of extra time. What a boost for tomorrow evening. Let’s do this. Heading to Limerick tomorrow for the 2nd leg of a triple.

  9. Great win that probably means Mayo will avoid Dublin the AI quarter finals now. Was it just me or did Mayo seem to struggle on long range frees all night? a number of them seemed to drop short or some was kicked short instead of taking the shot on. The 45 that was scored late on only just went over the bar.

    Not sure about the whole 5 in a row thing after all it started at U18 level and the competition is now U17 and Galway lost U17 Connacht final 2 years ago. Anyway a long overdue underage win for Mayo over Galway and earning it the hard way is all the more sweeter. I fancy the U20s to repeat the win in Tuam on Wednesday.

  10. What a cracker of a match. Well worth the 75 mile drive to see it. There were times when I thought our goose was cooked but the spirit of those young fellows overcame all. I said after the Leitrim game that I did not think that Irwin was a full forward. I think that this evening proved that once again. Looking forward to the quarter finals, Limerick tomorrow and the U20 next Weds. Follow Mayo and be busy.

  11. I was rewatching last night. Paul Walsh and Ronan Hughes the two blondes setup a lot of scores. Walsh has such close control of the ball and can get into space so quickly. There was a nice score he setup where he had picked up the ball and gone into space quick as a flash with three defenders nearby.

  12. I agree JP. I too was impressed with Paul Walsh. He seems a very natural player with confidence in his own ability. I was also impressed with Rory Keane. He was put on Culhane at some stage and seemed to quieten him to an extent as well as contributing to the general play.
    We have a few good lads coming through!

  13. I thought some of the foot passing from us was excellent and fair play to Tomas Morley he has them playing a really positive brand of football. That may not always get results at underage level but is better for the long-term development of players.

    Some change in opinion since the defeats v Sligo and Galway earlier in the year! People no longer complaining about too many Ballina and Castlebar players!

  14. There is no mention of the Mayo goalkeeper? How did he play, kick outs and all that?
    Congrats mayo….??

  15. Was flying home last night so just picking this result up now. What a win and what a lift that gives all of us. Fair play to the kids. That’s the standard for today!

  16. What really impressed me most was the quality of standard from such a young age group. Aside from the high level of skill they showed patience, awarness, a high work ethic, preserverance and bravery. Galway probably had the better individual players but we had the better team who played for each other. Pushing high up the pitch takes balls and sends a message to your team mates that we have faith and are hugely reliant on each other. So the hard work of tracking back, tackling and turning over ball was not just impressive but probably what won the game more than anything. It’s great to see such attributes ingrained in young players. Having individuals with exceptional tallent on its own won’t win you the game but as last night proved mixed with the above qualities will. Once again well done to one and all

  17. Great game. Could have gone either way but fair dues to ye – when 4 behind in extra time ye found a way to win it.
    Very little between those two teams.
    Who knows the could meet again later on – I would give our lads a decent chance against whoever wins Leinster even if it’s the Dubs.
    Mayomagic – just on that u17 final
    Two years ago that we lost – in fairness we were forced to play that game the night before the minor Connacht final where we had something like 8 or 9 lads also on that u18 squad.
    This even though the AI semi final was weeks away.

  18. @galwayman i was at the U17,U18 Connacht games which Galway beat Mayo in two years and looking at the match programs i only count 3 same players on both teams. ; J Glynn, S Fitzgerald and M Tierney the latter was only brought on as a sub for the U18s. That Galway U18 team were then beaten surprising by Cavan in the AI quarter final and i think something like 10 of that starting team is now Galway U20 starters whom will be playing Mayo on Wednesday.

  19. Game was a classic. One of the best I’ve ever seen at any level. Unrelenting, ferocious pace and quality – never dropped for even a minute. Can’t have been many wides at all. The skill and fitness levels were unreal. Soloing at 90 mph with lads hanging off them, superb foot passing, tackling, and point taking. Both teams deserve massive credit. Up Mayo!

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