6 talking points about tomorrow's All-Ireland minor football final

The All Ireland minor final between Tyrone and Mayo promises to be interesting. We look at some of the facts and figures that matter.

1. Tyrone v Mayo minor final…We’ve been here before

THE 2008 ALL IRELAND senior decider involving Tyrone and Kerry was a game for the ages. What happened before it wasn’t half bad either. Tyrone and Mayo drew a breathless minor match that set the tone nicely.

Tyrone took the honours in the replay following another intriguing fixture. Stars were born in both counties. Kyle Coney, Paddy McNiece, Ronan McNab, Mattie Donnelly, and Peter Harte are amongst those from Tyrone to have prospered at the highest level.

For Mayo a string of the panel sampled senior action with Robbie Hennelly the current goalkeeper and Aidan O’Shea firmly established as the midfield talisman. Who will follow in their footsteps?



2. Tyrone are the serial minor contenders

Since Mickey Harte commenced the Tyrone revolution in the mid 90′s accumulating underage titles and producing class players the Red Hands have been seriously competitive in the minor grade.

Even when Tyrone don’t garner silverware, whoever beats them will be in the hunt. There is an admirable consistency and competitive element to Tyrone minor footballing teams.

That has occurred because of the solid structures which have been implemented over the past two decades. Young Tyrone footballers aspire to be getting an early taste of Croke Park.

Since 1998 Tyrone have won five minor All Irelands a healthy return confirming their thrilling ability to produce crafty outfits.

3. Liam Irwin dummy

In the Connacht minor final Liam Irwin sold a string of dummies. Several Roscommon backs bought them with the end result being a goal of the year contender. A sizzling shot was a fitting conclusion to the smashing move.

Irwin’s glorious flash of class gave Mayo a boost at a vital time in the game when it was delicately poised. From then on Mayo fended off Roscommon’s spirited challenge. A provincial title was pocketed, Mayo are now an hour away from adding a national one.

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4. An O’Connor from Ballintubber

It is now nearly becoming a Mayo trademark. An O’Connor from Ballintubber occupying a leading berth as the Green and Red seek to be Croke Park kings.

Diarmuid O’Connor’s relevance to Mayo’s Connacht success shouldn’t be underestimated. When Mayo needed O’Connor to contribute against Galway and Roscommon that is precisely what he did.

Providing a key leadership role O’Connor was in the groove when Mayo needed him. That will be the case once more on Sunday.

5. Connacht’s improvement

The provincial senior championship continues to be derided, but scratch beneath the surface and the health of the underage game is improving quickly. Willie Hegarty’s sterling work in Roscommon has helped them turn into a respected force at minor and U21 level.

It is no longer simply a case of Mayo or Galway outfoxing one another with a western gong imminent. Sligo have been unfortunate not to take a scalp or two in the past five years at minor level, but they are competitive and examined Roscommon in Carrick-on-Shannon during the summer.

The fact that Galway, Roscommon, and Mayo will all have played in either minor or U21 finals during the two campaigns is a testament to the fact that when they emerge from Connacht now they do so with increasing ambition.



6. Tyrone have shown resolve

It has been a bumpy journey, but Tyrone are still travelling in September which owes much to the character and commitment of Mickey Donnelly’s panel.

Donegal and Down were taken care of in Ulster, but Monaghan won a fine provincial final 4-10 to 2-14. Then in the All Ireland quarter-final Tyrone were reduced to 13 men as Kerry appeared the likely victors. Stephen McGrath’s last gasp point forced extra-time and Tyrone came good when it truly mattered.

Roscommon carried a favourable reputation into the semi-final, but a Conor McKenna goal was the decisive moment. Despite trailing at the break Tyrone eked out a victory offering further evidence of their considerable pluck and potential.

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