The county’s Minors were well beaten by Monaghan today in the All-Ireland MFC quarter-final at Páirc Seán MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon. It was a match in which they never really got a proper foothold at any stage and the Farney lads ran out deserving 1-15 to 1-8 winners.
Maybe the writing was on the wall today even before the two teams ran out onto the greasy pitch, heavy rain having fallen in advance and with a light drizzle still coming down. This was because Derry had put Galway to the sword in the day’s opening game and, with Monaghan having only lost to the Oak Leaf County on penalties in the Ulster final, the clear form line suggested this would be a tough one for us.
That hunch hardened when the Monaghan team ran out. They’re a physically imposing bunch, stacked with big, tall lads and that physical mismatch became apparent right from the throw-in.
We got the opening point, a free from Tommy Lydon. Monaghan settled quicker, though, with Matthew Finn booming over a ’45 that was still rising when it went over the bar. That was then followed by a point from play when they turned over our restart.
Suddenly, however, we were three points up. Josh Carey found himself in on goal with just the ‘keeper to beat and, although he shot at the goalie, the ball cannoned into the net. Darragh Beirne followed this up with a point and we were three to the good.
We then swapped points, a solo effort by Colm Lynch was our one, and at that stage, eleven minutes in, we looked in good shape.
It was then, however, that Monaghan took complete control of the contest. They hit us with 1-6 without reply, a fusillade that included four points from play in a devastating three-minute spell, with our sole reply coming from a second Darragh Beirne point. We went in five behind at the break and in all kinds of bother.
We took the fight to them early in the second half but found it all but impossible to make headway against their well-drilled, committed backline. And every time they broke forward, they did so menacingly.
Another three unanswered points saw the Farney lads’ lead stretch to seven points midway through the second half. We were now struggling to get the ball up the field and, understandably, some young heads were starting to drop.
The game was already well lost when James Lavelle was shown a ludicrous straight red. There was an initial foul, then a bit of afters and the Monaghan player went down holding his face. As soon as James was sent off, though, he was back up pumping his fist. Even accounting for the fact that this was an U17 game, it wasn’t an edifying sight.
We kept battling, trying for a goal that would put a gloss on the final scoreline but now, numerically disadvantaged, that was always going to be a major ask. We added two late points, from Colm Lynch and Darragh Beirne, but Monaghan ran out deserved seven-points winners at the finish.
So that’s it for the Minors for this year. It was a campaign where, as the Connacht Championship wore on, they got better, surviving that memorable shootout against Roscommon in the semi-final before enjoying a comfortable win over Galway in the provincial final. Today, however, proved a step too far against what was a very strong Monaghan side, a team that will prove hard to stop this year.
Commiserations to the lads on today’s loss and well done to them for what they achieved in this year’s Minor campaign. There’s no doubt but that we’ll be seeing a number of them again in a Mayo jersey over the coming years.
Mayo: Conor Meaney; James Lavelle, Eoin McGreal, Yousif Coghill; Jamie Clarke, Rio Mortimer, Fionan O’Reilly; Tiernan Egan, Shane Cunningham; Colm Lynch (0-2), Tommy Lydon (0-2, frees), Gavin Forry; Darragh Beirne (0-3), Josh Carey (1-0), Senan Guilfoyle. Subs: Thomas Tuffy for Guilfoyle, Dara Neary (0-1) for Carey, Seán Walsh for O’Reilly, Fionnan Burke for Forry, Conor Ryder for Lynch.
Our Final Whistle podcast, recorded at Páirc Seán after the match ended, is up on Patreon. Mike and I are joined by our regular Minor expert Nigel Reape and we also hear post-game from Seán Deane. Listen to the show here.