Mayo minor skipper Coen inspired by 'role model' seniors
MAYO's wait for a minor All-Ireland title might be dwarfed by the senior famine but the county are looking to end both droughts tomorrow.
The Westerners have been consistently strong at this level since they last claimed the Tom Markham Cup in 1985, but on the six occasions they have made it to Croke Park, they have been unable to get over the line.
There is a belief in the west that this generation of senior footballers can break the mould, and news of a win for the minors would surely give them a lift before going out on to the field.
Certainly, the younger team have been inspired by the exploits of the seniors, according to captain Stephen Coen.
"They're our role models and we always look up to them. We try to emulate their performances as much as we can," he said. "They have great attitude, great fitness and just great skill levels, and they're really performing well.
"It will be a great occasion, a great honour for Mayo.."
The Connacht champions are hot favourites to beat Tyrone in tomorrow's Electric Ireland minor final, having beaten the Monaghan side who downed the Red Hands in the Ulster decider.
Tyrone have a fine record in minor finals, and they responded to that Clones defeat by ending Kerry and Roscommon's seasons. Mayo are expected to prove too strong, but they won't be taking their opponents lightly.
"Tyrone have produced seriously impressive teams over the last few years," Coen explained. "They've beaten Kerry, Donegal, Roscommon – a lot of those teams were being tipped to win the All-Ireland."
After a free-scoring run through the championship thus far, Mayo will have to handle Tyrone's defensive system and the sweeper they are expected to deploy in front of their defence tomorrow.
"That's their own thing," Coen said, dismissing the impact it could have as Mayo look to stick to their guns. "The only thing we can do is focus on our own game and try and improve as players ourselves and hopefully it will go well for us the next day.
"It's true that we're not the biggest team, I suppose. We try to work hard and work at pace if we can. Monaghan were very strong, an impressive team, we were lucky to get over the line. We're always on about working together and moving at pace and stuff like that.
"Our main mantra is to work hard and in fairness we did that the last time but we need to work a lot harder if we're going to do well the next day. It's focusing on our strengths really."
Having just started sixth year, Coen has plenty to juggle, but the Hollymount/Carramore youngster has been able to strike a balance.
"I just want to focus on school while I'm in school and then when I'm out of school, focus on football," he explained. "It's not that easy but I try."
If he can return on Monday with the Tom Markham Cup under his arm, he'll be a popular figure. On a big day for Mayo, the county will be hoping that both the minors and the seniors can learn the lessons of the past and finally put it behind them.
MAYO – M Mulligan; E Doran, S Cunniffe, D Kenny; M Hall, S Coen, S Conlon; V Roughneen, D O'Connor; C Loftus, M Plunkett, P Prendergast; D Doherty, L Irwin, T Conroy.
TYRONE – S Fox; C Byrne, R Quinn, C McCann; S Hamill, C Morris, P McGirr; R Nugent, F Burns; D Mulgrew, C McKenna, R McGlone; L Brennan, D Gallagher, S McGrath
REF – C Lane (Cork)
Mayo v Tyrone,
Live, tomorrow, TV3, 1.15