Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship Semi-Final
Monaghan v Mayo, Sunday, 1.30, Croke Park
Monaghan’s minor footballers will attempt to qualify for the county’s first All-Ireland final since 1939 when they take on Mayo in Sunday’s final at Croke Park.
Monaghan’s minor footballers will look to extend a great season a bit further when they take on Mayo in Sunday’s All-Ireland MFC semi-final at Croke Park.
This year has already seen Monaghan end a 24-year wait for an Ulster minor league and, more importantly, a 68-year Ulster MFC drought, but these players are not content to rest on their laurels, as they showed when they became the first team from the county to advance through the All-Ireland MFC quarter-finals. Next on the agenda is the bid to qualify for a first All-Ireland final since 1939.
Monaghan had an easy win over Antrim in the Ulster first round, but they have come through three tough tests since that; holding off a Cavan comeback to qualify for the Ulster final, where they produced an amazing turnaround of their own to pip Tyrone, before battling past 2011 All-Ireland winners Tipperary last time out.
Fearghal McMahon has been the main man of a potent Monaghan attack, but Conor McCarthy and Ryan McAnespie have both also scored in each of their appearances all year, while Michael O’Dowd, Desmond Ward and David McAlister can also chip in. There is plenty of competition for places up front, with the likes of Barry McGinn, Dónal Meegan and Adam Treanor battling it out for a starting jersey.
Midfield has been a bit of a conundrum all year, but Mark Magee came on as a sub against Tipperary after a lengthy injury-enforced absence and will hopefully be pushing for involvement on Sunday. Kevin Loughran, Aodh Curran, Adam Kieran and Shane Treanor have been ever-present in defence and although Loughran can play further out the field, the threat posed by Mayo’s forwards means the team captain will surely be needed at full-back. Mervyn Brown and Paul McArdle both acquitted themselves well on their first championship starts against Tipp, while Ciarán Martin will be determined to win his place back.
Mayo eased past Leitrim in the Connacht first round and hit five goals to see off Galway after extra-time in a thrilling semi-final. Their provincial final defeat of Roscommon looks even more impressive in the wake of the Rossies’ dismissal of a highly-fancied Kildare team in the last eight, where Mayo ran out comfortable winners against Westmeath.
Mayo’s main strength also lies in their forwards, as they have hit 11-45 in their four championship games to date, giving them an average score of 19.5 points. Their ability to score goals has been particularly key, as in the Westmeath game, when they found the net twice just after the restart to put the result beyond doubt. Anyone who saw Liam Irwin’s amazing solo goal in the Connacht final will have been left in no doubt about the quality of the Mayo attack.
Irwin, Cian Hanley, Darragh Doherty, Tommy Conroy and Conor Loftus have all been regular contributors on the scoreboard, led by Irwin with 2-16. Stephen Coen, Michael Plunkett, Val Roughneen and Eddie Doran are other key players for Mayo. Mayo have conceded less than Monaghan (4-34, compared to 6-41), but the Ulster champions’ defence stood up well to a lot of pressure from Tipperary.
With both teams involved in Sunday’s game being attack-minded and capable of hitting big tallies, it could develop into a shoot-out, like the Ulster final. Monaghan will hope to again come out on the right side of the result.
Monaghan: Conor Forde; Shane Treanor, Kevin Loughran, Paul McArdle; Adam Kieran, Aodh Curran, Michael Murnaghan; Mervyn Brown, David McAlister; Michael O’Dowd, Ryan McAnespie, Desmond Ward; Conor McCarthy, Barry McGinn, Fearghal McMahon.
Mayo: Mark Mulligan; Eddie Doran, Séamus Cunniffe, David Kenny; Michael Hall, Stephen Coen (Capt.), Seán Conlon; Val Roughneen, Diarmuid O’Connor; Conor Loftus, Michael Plunkett, Cian Hanley; Darragh Doherty, Liam Irwin, Tommy Conroy.