Wednesday 21 March 2018

Slick Mayo coast into final with flair and precision


Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

NO debate, no controversy and no doubt whatsoever about who won this week's minor curtain-raiser.

NO debate, no controversy and no doubt whatsoever about who won this week's minor curtain-raiser.

Hawk-Eye was called into action after 14 minutes and got a sarcastic cheer when it appeared to pass the test but the controversial eye-in-the-sky certainly wasn't needed to ascertain that the winners were, quite simply, in a different class.

This victory didn't just keep Mayo's minors on track for their first title in 28 years, but reaching their third minor final in six years also gives the county their first opportunity ever to pull off a sensational All-Ireland double.

And the driven and attacking ethos that is propelling their seniors also seems to have infected their underage heroes.

Manager Enda Gilvarry emerged all stoney-faced and low-key, talking about how their defence was exposed at times and how much work they still have to do.

Hello? Did you not just win by 13 points and did not nine different scorers contribute to a massive 3-17 from play?

OK, he conceded, his side do play "mad attacking football" and at times they looked like a 'mini-me' version of their seniors, taking their goal tally this summer to 14 with this breathtaking attacking display.

Gilvarry's quibble was that their defence was exposed at times, particularly by brilliant Monaghan forward Conor McCarthy.

The Farney youngsters – who had celebrated their first Ulster title since 1945 when beating Tyrone – were chasing a first All-Ireland final appearance in 74 years and youngsters like McCarthy, David McAllister, Ryan McAnespie and Desmond Ward showed a great deal of promise for the future.

But their team's multiple positional switches and attempt at a blanket-defence badly misfired as Mayo repeatedly opened up space and galloped through it.

Monaghan's full-back line was the only one untouched before throw-in but manager Frank Brady defended his major reshuffle, saying: "hindsight would be a great thing but we made the changes based on the videos we'd watched of Mayo."

He played just three up front but Gilvarry left his team in orthodox formation to let his players' individual brilliance and sizzling pace work its magic.

Mayo 'keeper Mark Mulligan helped with a big save in each half and they also survived the early loss of Cian Hanley (brother of Aussie Rules star Pearce) to a broken collar-bone and the fact that Monaghan completely dominated midfield in the first half.

"We wouldn't be the biggest team but we have taken the conscious decision that we'd play with as much pace as we can because, if we can't outfield them, then we're going to out-run them!" Gilvarry grinned.

In Michael Plunkett, Tommy Conroy and Darragh Doherty they have plenty of after-burners and their half-back line also contributed 0-4 thanks to the efforts of Michael Hall and Stephen Coen.

Padraig Prendergast's ball-winning in the middle third of the field also made a big difference when he came off the bench.

Well-coached and particularly composed and unselfish, Mayo took a lot of good options and were six points up after 18 minutes.

Four minutes later, Monaghan were finally in the game, and were suddenly level thanks to two frees from McAllister and a goal by McCarthy, set up by hard-working McAnespie.

But Mayo immediately replied with one of their own, superbly finished by Conor Loftus and they turned four points up (1-10 to 1-6) at the half-time break.

When Conor Forde dropped a sizzling Prendergast shot four minutes after the re-start, Plunkett quickly pounced for Mayo's second goal and they were 11 points ahead and could afford the luxury of withdrawing the eye-catching Doherty before Tommy Conroy's 55th-minute rocket sealed the deal.

Scorers - Mayo: T Conroy, M Plunkett 1-2 each, C Loftus 1-1, D Doherty 0-4, L Irwin 0-3 (2fs), M Hall, S Coen, P Prendergast 0-2 each, C Byrne 0-1. Monaghan: C McCarthy 1-4, D McAllister 0-3 (3fs), F McMahon 0-2 (1f), R McAnespie, A Treanor 0-1 each, C Forde 0-1 ('45).

Mayo - M Mulligan; E Doran, S Cunniffe, D Kenny; M Hall, S Coen (capt), S Conlon; V Roughneen, D O'Connor; C Loftus, M Plunkett, C Hanley; D Doherty, L Irwin, T Conroy. Subs: P Prendergast for Hanley (inj, 27), C Byrne for Doherty (50), R Finn for Doran (53), J Langan for Plunkett (57) F Duffy for Irwin (60).

Monaghan - C Forde; S Treanor, K Loughran (capt), P McArdle; A Kieran, R McAnespie, M Brown; M Murnaghan, M Magee; D Ward, A Curran, M O'Dowd; C McCarthy, D McAllister, F McMahon. Subs: D Meegan for Brown (21), N Loughman for Kieran (34), B McGinn for O'Dowd (h-t), C Martin for McArdle (36), Adam Treanor for Shane Treanor (47).

Ref - A Nolan (Wicklow)

Irish Independent

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