Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship Final – GALWAY 0-15 MAYO 0-9
There were plenty of aspects to tonight’s Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor football final that were either unusual or unprecedented, including the Friday night setting, the All-Connacht pairing, and of course the fact that one of the two teams – Galway – went into the game having already lost three championship games in 2022.
Two of those defeats came at the hands of Mayo, but Alan Glynn’s side clearly learned all the right lessons from those defeats as they produced arguably their best display of the year tonight, controlling possession and dominating defensively, despite taking on what was comfortably the best attacking team in this championship, averaging 19 points per game before tonight.
The transformation in Galway’s fortunes stemmed from two key areas – their control of the turnover battle, particularly in their own backline, and Kyle Gilmore’s impeccable restarts. Facing into the breeze in the first half, with Mayo choosing to go man for man, the Cortoon Shamrocks player was able to repeatedly pick out a colleague moving into space and put the ball exactly where it needed to go. That gave the Tribesmen front foot ball, which they were usually able to work into a scoring position. Even if the end result wasn’t necessarily a white or green flag, it meant that Mayo spent large chunks of the first half chasing the ball, when they need to try and accumulate a lead.
Consequently, Galway were by far the happier team at half-time, with a two-point lead banked at the end of 31 minutes playing into a deceptively strong wind. Though they were clearly the better team in the second half too, they had far more leeway than the scoreboard might suggest at first glance, given that most of Mayo’s six first half points were scores from distance, and that was never going to be an option when they turned around to shoot into the town end goal.
After a fast start that featured three missed goal chances but no scores – the highlight Kyle Gilmore’s superb stop to deny Niall Hurley – Éanna Monaghan finally got the scoring underway with a free after six minutes.
After getting off the mark through a Cathal Keaveney free in the tenth minute, Mayo had the better of the next ten, and edged in front by 0-5 to 0-4. James Maheady led the way with three glorious points from distance, including one off each foot, but even then, it wasn’t the traditional spell of suffocating Mayo dominance, where the opposition is unable to get any kind of foothold.
Galway kept in touch, they continued to control the ball for at least 50% of the time and usually more, and they were quickly back on terms through Fionn O’Connor.
That was to be the first point of four in succession, including a highlight reel score from Stephen Curley that came from an inch-perfect Gilmore kickout, and while Colm McHale pulled one back for Mayo before half-time, it was still plain to see that Seán Deane’s side needed the faster start once Niall Cullen got the second 30 minutes underway.
Instead Shay McGlinchey and Colm Costello (twice) kicked points for Galway, the last of the three a goal chance that fizzed over David Dolan’s crossbar when a simple handpass across the goal would have left Stephen Curley with a tap in goal.
Trailing by five with a little over 20 minutes to play, the mountain that Mayo had to climb looked steep indeed, but whether it’s minor or senior, that type of challenge seems to bring out the best in them.
Seán Dean’s side duly made a surge, drawing their supporters into the game as they did so. Ronan Clarke kicked two sublime scores, they began to get on top at midfield, and at one stage it looked like Galway were feeling the pressure, with all 15 maroon jerseys back inside their own 45 a couple of seconds before the latter of Clarke’s points.
Crucially however, this strong spell never really told on the scoreboard as much as Mayo needed. There were the big moments, but not necessarily the payoff; such as a fantastic steal and turnover from Jack Keane that set up a Mayo attack, only for it to end with the ball creeping an inch or two too far ahead of Paul Gilmore, just when it looked as if the goal was opening up for the wing back.
Galway’s ball control held firm, their talisman and joint captain Éanna Monaghan dropped into a deeper role and while he didn’t add to his four first half points, he played a fantastic playmaker role, linking up the play and helping to generate the chances that saw Stephen Curley, Charlie Cox and Colm Costello kick the game-clinching scores in the final quarter.
Scorers for Galway: Colm Costello 0-5 (0-2f), Éanna Monaghan 0-4 (0-3f), Stephen Curley 0-2, Fionn O’Connor 0-1, Shay McGlinchey 0-1, Cillian Trayers 0-1, Charlie Cox 0-1.
Scorers for Mayo: Ronan Clarke 0-4 (0-2f), James Maheady 0-3, Cathal Keaveney 0-1f, Colm McHale 0-1.
Galway: Kyle Gilmore; Vinny Gill, Ryan Flaherty Tomás Farthing; Mark Mannion, Cillian Trayers, Ross Coen; Jack Lonergan, Shay McGlinchey; Owen Morgan, Éanna Monaghan, Seán Dunne; Stephen Curley, Fionn O’Connor, Colm Costello.
Subs: Charlie Cox for O’Connor (44), Olan Kelly for Dunne (52), Pádraig McNeela for Mannion (56), Luke Carr for Curley (59), Cian Dolan for Costello (60+1).
Mayo: David Dolan; Colm McHale, John McMonagle, Lorcan Silke; Liam Maloney, Rio Mortimer, Paul Gilmore; Jack Keane, Luke Feeney; James Maheady, Dara Hurley, Diarmuid Duffy; Cathal Keaveney, Ronan Clarke, Niall Hurley.
Subs: Oliver Armstrong for D Hurley (40), Zac Collins for Keaveney (53), Oisín Cronin for Maheady (57), Dylan Gallagher for Keane (59), Seán O’Dowd for Feeney (60+4).
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)
by Kevin Egan at Dr. Hyde Park