Following Mayo's footballers

Magnificent minors just fall short

We came close, so close, to clinching the minor All-Ireland today but in the end Tyrone had that bit more in the tank in extra time.  Hard luck, lads – you left everything out there on the pitch today at Pearse Park and we can’t ask for anything more than that.

It was a day of heartstopping tension in Longford where, as expected, the ground was packed to the rafters and the majority of the crowd were Mayo supporters.  Once we hit the tailback at Edgeworthstown on the way down from Dublin, it felt for all the world as if we were heading off to a senior championship match in July and this feeling was reinforced once we got closer to the ground, with thousands pouring into Pearse Park to see the final piece of inter-county championship action for 2008.  The atmosphere inside the ground was electric too, with the lads getting a rousing reception as they took the field, where the throw-in had to be delayed for nearly twenty minutes due to the traffic congestion outside.

We’d started positively the last day in Croke Park but, from the throw-in today, we were on the back foot and, if we’re to be honest with ourselves, we were struggling to stay with this slick, confident and fast moving Tyrone outfit for much of today’s replay.  They settled quickest with two early points before an Aiden Walsh free on six minutes got us off the mark.  We’d already missed an early goal chance after their opening point when Aiden O’Shea’s effort – where the ball seemed to cannon off his shin – was cleared off the line.

They got another from play and at this stage were well on top at midfield, especially in snaffling up the breaking ball.  Raymond Geraghty got our first point from play to narrow the gap to one but then we had a narrow escape when Robert Hennelly made a superb stop in a one-on-one situation. It was to be the first of many important interventions for us by the Breaffy keeper.

Kyle Coney got one from play to edge the Northeners two ahead and the Ardbo youngster was to enjoy a far more productive day today – I think he must have ended up with at least six points, all from play as well.  However, we finally showed signs of settling, with Shane Nally driving over a point from play and a booming fifty from Aiden Walsh soon after brought us level.  Five minutes later, Eoin Reilly stormed upfield and his point from play gave us the lead for the first time.

Just like happened last Sunday, though, Tyrone roared back into it in those final six minutes of the half, rattling over four points from play to seize a three-point lead.  Another Aiden Walsh free cut the gap to two at the break.

Tyrone were out of the traps quickest in the second half and a Paddy McNeice free restored their three-point advantage within 30 seconds of the throw-in.  James Cafferty provided the perfect response as he went on a long, loping run and finished confidently to cut the deficit to two again.  We upped the tempo at this stage but a series of misplaced passes meant that we didn’t put them under the kind of pressure we should have and then a good move deep into Tyrone territory ended with an Alex Corduff wide.

Eventually, an Aiden O’Shea free brought us some reward for our efforts but Tyrone responded almost straight away with a point from play.  The next three scores were ours, however, with two Aiden Walsh frees (this one was an absolute beauty) bookending a marvelous booming point from play from Aiden O’Shea.  The big Breaffy man had had a quiet enough first half but his size and tenacity were now beginning to tell around the middle.

We really needed to kick on at this stage but instead another free brought Tyrone level and then Robert Hennelly made another miraculous save, tipping the ball onto the upright from where it was somehow scrambled away.  O’Shea then went on a brilliant, surging run – having been put clear by a clever pass from Aiden Walsh – and he passed to sub Daniel O’Hara who put us a point up once more.  The Tom Markham Cup seemed to be inching its way towards us at this stage but, although we didn’t know it at the time, this would be the last time we’d hold the lead in this match.

Two quick Tyrone points from play, the first from Donnelly and the other from Coney, edged the Red Hand lads back in front with four minutes to go but then Shane Nally scored a cracking point from play, having been played in by the quick-thinking O’Shea.  With time almost up, Tyrone got a 14 yards free which, when they converted it, looked to be the winner but Aiden Walsh nailed a far tougher one at the other end to send the match into extra-time.

At this stage, it looked impossible to separate the two sides as they’d both played their hearts out.  If someone in the crowd had had the foresight to bring a circular saw with them, the fairest thing would have been to cut the cup in two but instead we were faced with two ten minute periods of extra-time to see if we could find a winner.  As the lads emerged from the dressing room for extra time, we were as confident as the Nordies were that it would be Mayo who would prevail in extra-time.

It became apparent very quickly in extra-time which team would win and, sadly, it wasn’t going to be our lads.  As they’d done at the start of both halves, Tyrone grabbed the initiative at the outset of extra-time and two McNeice frees and another point from play from Coney put them three points clear, with another Robert Hennelly save before Coney’s score keeping us in it. Cathal Freeman was played in by Corduff at the other end soon after but the Aghamore man’s goal effort was deflected out for a fifty which Aiden Walsh screwed wide.

Three points down at the turnaround and we needed to a good start in the second period of extra-time but instead Tyrone killed us off with a fortuitous goal.  A wild effort at the point by McNeice dropped into the square and Hennelly, who had saved our ass repeatedly up till then, fumbled the catch allowing one of the Tyrone forwards to bundle it home.  Six down with less than ten minutes of extra-time to go, we were dead in the water.  James Cafferty pulled a goal back from a ball lofted into the square by Aiden O’Shea but they had the luxury of tapping a late penalty over the bar and we couldn’t get any closer than five points at the end of what was an enthralling and emotionally draining contest.

It’s tough to walk away empty-handed yet again from an All-Ireland, all the more so because we all know deep down that we had the game effectively won the first day.  It doesn’t matter how many times it has happened – every one of them hurt and this one hurts just as bad.

We should, however, be enormously proud of our minors who, although they didn’t make it across the line today, came so tantalisingly close to doing so.  Their run to the All-Ireland final and their two gutsy performances in the final itself has served to rescue what was otherwise an indifferent year for football in the county and the heart and tenacity they’ve shown repeatedly over the last few games should make us optimistic for the future.  Sure, like all those other unwon All-Irelands, it would have been great to see them lift the cup today but these lads ensured that we’d still be out following championship football on the last Saturday in September and, in doing so, they’ve given us many great memories to warm our hearts over the winter.  They deserve our sincere thanks and appreciation for doing this.

Comments

  1. Firstly hard luck to a gallant minor team, no bottlers here. Secondly congratulations on showing the country the magnificent under age players we have. The momentum in Tyrone from the confidence of a senior win was probably the deciding factor in the game. Now for the hard bit , and we have been here before. Lets not get caught up in other counties negativity. We are only a notch of the top across the board. no one can slag or name call us. We are contenders in every grade , every year. Compare our record to Dublin for example , we should be proud. Out of this, allied to this years u21s and the u21s of the last four years we will weld an outfit ready for the big day inside the next two years. Fogra to Mr O Mahoney, no more talking us down or lowering our expectations, that has been achieved and wont wash this coming season. In the words of the great Mick Doyle…lets give it a lash. Proud to be a Mayo man today.

  2. You have to be ever so proud of this group of lads. The heart and desire and no little skill demonstrated by them all Summer has really shown us that the future will be bright.

    I have to keep telling myself that our day will come. It has to – if you keep knocking on the door it has to open. It would have been such a perfect day to mark an All Ireland, great weather, super atmosphere and massive Mayo crowd.

    Tyrone were slicker and their pace and fitness carried the day in the end. But the Mayo team and management should hold their heads high for as you said Willie Joe they gave us a great Indian Summer.

    And I agree with ontheroad, no more talking ourselves down. Stand tall on and off the field. We are going to be there or thereabouts in Connacht every year, and we should not be afraid to say that we are shooting for Sam.

    Roll on the FBD

  3. Yep another one that got away hard to swallow this one knowing how close we got last Sunday.

    I feel so sorry for the lads who played with grit skill and determination, there could only be one winner an sadly it wasnt us.

    all is not doom and gloom and as ontheroad rightly pointed out there is much to be proud of for mayo football and great hope for the future. I hope these lads go on to develop their potential and flourish in the future.

    down but not out… …mayo abu

  4. On the Road is on the money. Men from other counties are like fighting cocks defending their own. We just cut more sticks to beat ourselves with.

    For example – we’ve gone around tearing our hair out since 2004 on the basis that we don’t have a full back because David Heaney had a bad time in an All-Ireland final. Graham Canty gets torn a new one in the final last year at full back and what happens? He gets an All-Star. There’s something in that. There really is.

    More out of me on Tuesday, please God. In the meantime, well done the minors – as Willie himself said, they had nothing in them they didn’t leave on the pitch, and nobody can ask for more than that.

  5. i am gutted but unlike their senior counterparts this brilliant group of you men went down fighting. Bottom line we lost to a slightly superior tyrone panel. We had the bare 15, they had 20 and for me that was the difference in the end. We should have won last sunday and for me thats the biggest disappointment. With 5 to go today i thought we had it again but unfortunately it wasnt to be. As you alluded to WJ they salvaged our season and have given us good reason to be positive about the future. We will win an all ireland soon.Keep the Faith

  6. This is just to let you all know that I’ve now added links in the match report to a few video clips I took at the game. The report has been a work in progress for the last few hours – I was on the laptop on the drive back to Dublin, with The Brother behind the wheel and I thought that the division of labour worked out well as I had all the words up before getting back home with only the pics and videos to add. I’m trying to convince him that this is the way to go for all our road trips in 2009 but he’s going to need a bit more convincing, I fear!

  7. I agree heartily with all the sentiments expressed above, guys – the lads gave absolutely everything today and only lost in extra-time to a damn fine and well drilled Tyrone side. There’s no shame in that.

    Last year we were kicking our heels in the middle of July but the minors have stretched our inter-county championship campaign right up to the end of September and we should all be grateful to them for what they’ve done to keep the lunatic fringe on the road for all this time. Sure isn’t the FBD starting again in a little over three months time!

  8. just had a look at your Aidan Walsh free kick clip and it shows that Tyrone mentor who spent as much time on the pitch as some players …. how come no official tried to stop him from repeatedly doing that especially near the end ? small point but got more than a bit annoying when every tiem you looked he was on the pitch !!

  9. You’re right there – he was on the pitch more than off it right through the game and the ref obviously wasn’t too bothered about this. It’s difficult to know if this proved to be any advantage to Tyrone but it was certainly annoying to those of us watching the action!

  10. after that little rant (looking at the clip just reminded me) I would like to echo all the previous comments – Mayo Minors have given us all something to cheer for in 2008. Their attitude and effort has been 100% in every match so there should be absolutly no cause for any regrets. Add skill and ability to that and we have been lucky to see something evolve in 2008 that should give us reason to be optimistic. Hope our seniors were watching closely and making mental notes on how it should be done !!!

  11. Came out of the game yesterday gutted for the lads. Its hard at underage to pick yourself up from that. They absolutely did us proud though. My only dissapointment in yesterday was that the Mayo team did not seem to be informed of the pre match delay Before coming out on the field. They ran around for Twenty minutes while Tyrone didnt. Maybe this stood to the legs of the Tyrone boys in Extra Time!

  12. That was odd alright, Claire, and I think it did have an impact in terms of how the teams started in the first half. I’m not sure if it was still a factor in extra-time – Tyrone made a whole load of substitutions shortly before the end of normal time and it’s probably no coincidence that they ran us into the ground in extra-time. We didn’t have the same depth on the bench and our lads were just dead on their feet at that stage.

    Hopefully they will pick themselves up and go on to represent the county with distinction at U21 and senior level. There’s got to be All-Ireland medals of some sort in this bunch of players!

  13. those minors did us proud and thankfully will be handed over to another very competent management team in the form of connelly/holmes….the second phase in our intercounty conveyor belt. its the final phase that needs a bit of tweeking. Things are arseways in the county at the moment. From my perspective it would appear that the minors are leading by example. How ridiculous is that. i hope this wasnt lost on Mahony and his crew. they have a lot of soul searching to do this winter.

  14. Minor 08 says:

    Lads I just read over this report from the final last year and it breaks my heart. I am a minor from 2008 and I would just like to thank all the supporters who made such a wonderful year for us. Sadly we didn’t pull off the win in the end but I promise it was not for any lack of effort or ability.

    I feel there is plenty to be optimistic about in Mayo football in the coming years. I have no doubt in the ability in some of our younger guys coming through.

    From within our own minor team from 2008 many of us are still very close friends, and although we all play tough against each other for our clubs we all have talked to each other about and realised that the most important thing we can do is try to develop into senior inter county footballers that will be good enough to bring an all-ireland back to Mayo. This is our aim. Nothing else.

    Mayo abú!

  15. It wasn’t any of us on the terraces who produced the magic last year, Minor 08, it was you guys on the pitch. You gave everything in pursuit of that All-Ireland and came so close to pulling it off. You provided us with plenty to be proud of and gave us something to cheer about right to the end.

    I agree that there’s reason to be optimistic for the future, given all the talent that’s coming through and I’ve no doubt that many of last year’s minors will be doing their stuff at senior level in the coming years. Hopefully, one day they’ll be part of the side that ends our long wait for a senior All-Ireland.

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