Minor enthusiasm a major factor in Mayo's success
Manager Enda Gilvarry tells Cliona Foley how his players' drive and desire make his job easier
ASK Mayo minor football manager Enda Gilvarry what makes working with his team so enjoyable and he has no hesitation.
"Minors are so full of enthusiasm and ambition and drive," he exclaims. "If you can harness that properly the results can be amazing and very rewarding."
Yet it can still throw up complications.
You can train them all the way to an All-Ireland final and then, two weeks beforehand, some of them take their fledgling steps towards adulthood and head off to college.
Five of his team began third-level life last week, three in Galway and two in Limerick.
Three more – Diarmuid O'Connor, Conor Loftus and 17-year-old fullback Seamus Cunniffe (who will be minor again next year) – are starting in DCU next week.
It is a thrilling time in their young lives but Gilvarry, like his Tyrone counter-part Mickey Donnelly, has had to facilitate these seismic life-changes while keeping them training hard and focussed on one last, big game.
He has also had to dampen the considerable hype around his young side.
Not only are they part of what could be a historic Mayo All-Ireland double but their swash-buckling, attacking style has created a palpable buzz.
Blessed with pace, eye-catching forwards like Darragh Doherty and Tommy Conroy and a half-back line that also likes to get forward and pick off points, they've scored 14 goals and 62 points this summer.
Which is why Gilvarry is grateful for Mayo's senior success.
"To be honest it has helped that we're going for the double," the Kilalla man confesses.
"Most of the media attention has been on the senior team and we're coming into the final in the shade of our senior team and are very happy with that."
What is particularly noticeable is the breadth of clubs involved; a round dozen represented by their starting 15 against Monaghan.
"I actually wouldn't have realised that," says Gilvarry who works for the National Roads Authority (NRA).
"People have commented that we have only one from the county's two biggest clubs – Castlebar and Ballina – but the wide spread is probably a sign of the work being done in development squads."
He took charge of a county U14 squad for a year before moving into the club scene 10 years ago, first managing Ballina to a
county minor title in 1999 and their seniors to a county title in 2003 and going on to work with Kilalla whom he led to a junior title.
He was a minor selector last year with a team that contained only four of this year's team – Stephen Coen (first cousin of county senior Darren), O'Connor (younger brother of county senior star Cillian), Michael Plunkett and Val Roughneen – so this is a very new bunch.
"I first saw this group this time last year at the U17 tournament that Kerry host on All-Ireland weekend," he reveals.
"What struck me immediately was their great work-rate.
"At the start of the year we didn't have any particular tactic in mind but these players mostly fit an attacking style so we decided to go with it.
"The rest of the management, especially our coach James Mitchell, deserve a lot of the credit for the way they move the ball on fast and look for options," he says of their unselfish style, something that is not always prominent in minors.
Whether they stick to such all-out attack against a Tyrone side who tend to play a sweeper and will never say die remains to be be seen.
Monaghan's Conor McCarthy caused Mayo enough problems last time out to suggest that they need to tighten up at the back.
This year's only glitch was the loss of wing-forward Cian Hanley (brother of Pearce now playing Aussie Rules) who broke his collarbone badly against Monaghan but Louisburgh's Padraig Prendergast did well when he replaced him.
They face a side who may be beaten Ulster finalists but have a rich recent underage tradition.
Tyrone looked dead and buried in their All-Ireland semi-final against beaten Connacht finalists Roscommon yet still survived to stay in line for the county's fourth minor title in 10 years.
Mayo haven't won one since 1985 and, in the interim, have lost six minor finals, including two in a row to Ulster opposition in 2008 (Tyrone) and 2009 (Armagh).
The 2008 loss was arguably the most painful, when future seniors like Aidan O'Shea, Robert Hennelly, Shane McHale, Cathal Freeman and Kevin Keane lost to the Red Hands after an epic two-game encounter.
Now, like the seniors, their minors are back on another myth-busting mission and will probably take heart from the fact that, when Mayo last won the All-Ireland minor crown fully 28 years ago, their teenage fullback was one Enda Gilvarry.