Three in a row for three goal Mayo

November 8, 2018

Courtesy of The Western People

GAA Football ESB Connacht Minor Championship – Final

MAYO 3-9 GALWAY 1-10

MICHAEL GALLAGHER in McHale Park, Castlebar

 GALWAY came to Castlebar determined to stop Mayo’s ace forward from weaving his magic, but they forgot that the Green and Red have more than one string to their attacking bow. Darren Coen was the star of the show as Mayo captured their third provincial title in succession. The St Gerard’s full-forward was in devastating form and his two goals within three minutes lit up the match as Mayo pulled away following a topsy-turvy opening half.Galway kept a tight rein on the home side’s team captain, Cillian O’Connor, but they hadn’t the manpower to also control Coen and therein was their undoing. Mature analysis will not describe this match as a classic. Mistakes littered the encounter and there were many periods when scrappy play dominated but the result was all that mattered and in that regard Mayo were kings. They were the better team for long periods, but endured some rocky moments before blazing home three magical goals to secure the trophy and a third title in as many years. O’Connor had a half-chance of a goal in the opening seconds when Cian Costello flicked the ball into his path but Mayo had to wait until the second minute to open their account with a Danny Kirby point. At the other end Galway were finding room through the middle of the home defence and Paul Mannion had to produce a fine save to deny Niall Quinn an early goal. 

Galway eventually got off the mark after 13 minutes when Shane Maughan pointed and Niall Quinn doubled their tally moments later following fine play from the increasingly prominent Fionntan Ó Curraoin. Mayo were finding scores hard to come by but a fine run from Ryan Quirke saw the Claremorris wing-back land a much-needed point before three coolly converted frees from O’Connor left the home side 0-5 to 0-2 clear after 21. Galway were beginning to dominate the midfield exchanges as their management made numerous personnel and positional switches. Ó Curraoin was the main man in the middle and his work in the air and on the ground was very impressive. The Maroon and White grabbed a fortunate goal in the 24th minute when Mannion was dispossessed in front of his own posts and Paul Varley poked home the loose ball. Points from Maughan and Peadar Ó Griofa left Galway 1-4 to 0-5 clear as half-time approached. Mayo weren’t happy with that situation however, and welcome points from Coen and Kelly tied the tallies at the short whistle.

Galway took the lead again early in the new half when the marauding Ó Griofa drove through the middle once again and popped over a point, before Mannion and Sean McGarry had to be extremely vigilant to deny Niall Breathnach a goal chance after 39 minutes. Mayo needed a boost and found it moments later when Kirby, Kelly and Conor Walsh combined to send O’Connor through on goal and when he was pulled down by retreating defenders a penalty was awarded. Kirby stepped forward and drilled the ball low and hard into the bottom corner and suddenly the whole complexion of the game changed. Fergal Durkan caught the next kick-out and when he and Kirby worked the ball to Coen in an advanced position the full-forward sent the leather ripping into the roof of the net. Ó Griofa and O’Connor swapped points in the following moments but the result was decided in the 17th minute when Coen rounded his marker and blasted the ball into net as the champions moved 3-8 to 1-6 clear.

Galway knew that a miracle was required if they were to rescue the situation and they continued to push and probe for avenues back into contention as the game moved towards its inevitable conclusion. Ó Griofa and Maughan kicked points and the Maroons had sniffs of goal chances but nothing of consequence until Eoghan Commins found Eamon McCann in glorious isolation in front of goal. The substitute shot for the net but Mannion denied him and that was the end of their green flag opportunities. Niall Quinn and Ó Griofa kicked late points for the chasers but a flowing move ended with Conor O’Shea splitting the posts as thoughts of an All-Ireland quarter-final meeting with Offaly came into view. 

SCORERS – Mayo: Darren Coen 2-1, Cillian O’Connor 0-4f, Danny Kirby 1-1 (1-0p), Ryan Quirke, Sean Kelly and Conor O’Shea 0-1 each. 

Galway: Peadar O Griofa 0-5 (2f), Paul Varley 1-0, Shane Maughan 0-3 (1f), Niall Quinn 0-2