It was two out of two for the county at MacHale Park this evening, with the Juniors getting the better of Roscommon in the Connacht JFC quarter-final while the Minors saw off the challenge of Leitrim in Round 1 of the Connacht MFC. Two very different wins they were, by the sounds of it.
In the Junior match, it looked like our lads – up against a very strong Roscommon team featuring several senior players, some of whom had graced Croke Park in the recent NFL Division Two final – were doing well simply to hang in there. They made the most of the wind to open up a three-point gap at the break but the visitors stormed back and were three up themselves midway through the second half.
The Rossies were still two up with the match deep in stoppage time. It was then, though, that the tactical masterstroke made by the home sideline – which saw sub-goalie Mattie Flanagan brought on to play as a kind of sweeper-cum-quarterback (fly-goalie in other words) – paid off spectacularly.
It was the Balla man, stationed out near midfield, who created the overlap that led to Ciaran Boylan crashing home a sensational winning goal for Jarlath Trench’s side. The final whistle sounded seconds later, with Mayo lads having pulled off a stirring 2-15 to 1-17 win.
Adding a further twist to this particular tale, it turns out that tonight’s match-winner is none other than the son of legendary former Meath manager, Seán Boylan, who was there at MacHale Park tonight to see his son in action. After tonight’s incredible finish, any remaining carping about 1996 will, I reckon, now have to cease.
The U17 match that was played afterwards had none of the same dramatics. The Mayo lads grabbed the initiative right from the throw-in and by half-time, leading by 2-8 to 0-4, they were well in charge. Tomás Morley’s charges went from strength to strength after the break, with Leitrim wilting badly as the home team cantered to a facile 4-20 to 1-8 win.
This Mayo side will face far harder challenges this year than they did in tonight’s Connacht opener. They did what was asked of them this evening, though, and, in doing so, provided at least some hope that this year could see an overdue upturn in our fortunes at underage level.
Well done to both Mayo teams on their respective wins this evening.