Win or lose yesterday, the minors were guaranteed a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals but the lads’ victory over Galway at McHale Park not only secured the Kilcoyne Cup for the third summer on the trot, it also meant that we were guaranteed a last eight tie against the beaten finalists in Leinster – Offaly – and not that province’s surprising champions, Longford. Is that why yesterday’s win brought all those flags out onto the balconies, I wonder? (My thanks to The Brother for the photo, which he snapped the other day in the lovely city of Porto).
We’ll be fancied, I’d say, to progress to a third successive All-Ireland semi-final when we face off against the Faithful County at some stage over the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend. As Ed McGreal points out in his match report in the Mayo News, however, we were far from dominant in the middle third yesterday despite the fact that both of Galway’s first-choice midfielders were absent due to injury. Until that barrage of goals went in, we were in no way comfortable yesterday against a side that Ed judged to be “average, at best” and so it sounds like we’ll need to shape up in a major way if we’re to be involved at the business end of things this time round.
We’ll certainly have earned our place in the final, should we make it that far because, assuming we get past the Offaly hurdle, we’ll then be up against either Tyrone or Kerry at the penultimate stage. Kerry lost out to Cork in Munster this year but they’re still Kerry while Tyrone gave the reigning All-Ireland champions Armagh a right hiding in yesterday’s Ulster final. Whichever of them it is, we’ll have our work cut out on August 22nd, should we make it that far.
On the other side of the draw Cork, Armagh, Longford and Galway will be battling it out and whoever emerges from that corner will be tough to beat too. For now, though, Tony Duffy and his team have more than enough to think about as they start to plan about how best to deal with Offaly in the quarters. For the minors, it’s very much one hurdle at a time from here on.