Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mayo Minors Fall at Final Hurdle

An Spailpín Fánach is flattered once more to be allowed the pages of the Mayo News to express his two cents on our gallant minors, who strove, sought and did not yield, although defeated, on Saturday. It's ironic to be posting this now, on a day when the world stands in wonder at some profoundly short-sighted messing in the US House of Representatives yesterday, messing that the puts the very futures of these young men in jeopardy. But we must all hope for the best, and treasure what we have. Life goes on.

Tyrone 1-20
Mayo 1-15

There was a banjo festival on in Longford the same weekend that the Minor All-Ireland final was replayed at Pearse Park. The banjo is a fine instrument in many ways, but it is not well suited to slow airs or laments, the only appropriate music for the legion of Mayo support and for the Mayo minors of 2008 for whom it was another day of so nears and yet so fars.

No Mayo heart can but fill with pride at the thought of the achievements of Ray Dempsey and his lionhearted team, for whom the summer has been a long odyssey of toil and dedication. Last Sunday’s draw was not the first of the campaign, but the third. Mayo drew with Monaghan and with Kerry as well, before seeing both of them off. As such, Mayo were able to face the replay against Tyrone making no apologies to anyone.

Tyrone got off to the better start but this Mayo team is not one that is shaken off easily. They doggedly stuck with the game and were still in contention after finishing the first half only two points down with wind advantage to come.

The second half developed of a pattern with the drawn game as two fine teams matched each stride for stride, blow for blow. By the time the clocked tolled an hour, Mayo’s Aidan Walsh was once more lining up a long range free on the left hand side, but this time to save the game, rather than to win it. It made no difference to Walsh – over the crossbar it went, and Mr Reilly blew for full-time and extra time.

Sadly, after so many heroics of the long, wet summer, Mayo’s well had finally run dry. Despite their best efforts, Mayo were three points down at half time and only hanging on. Manager Ray Dempsey was on the pitch at half-time in extra time, exhorting his boys for one final push, but it was not to be. Goalkeeper Robert Hennelly, the hero of full time for saves whose excellence was such that a rumour ran around the ground at one stage that Air Force One was filled with green diesel at Knock, ready to fly the young man to Washington to see if he could save the US economy as well, was calling for one final heave as well, a leader of men.

But the Tyrone pressure ultimately told in what has very much been Tyrone’s year, and the goal went in that sealed Mayo’s doom. James Cafferkey got one back with about a minute to go but all it did was take the bad look off a scoreboard that did scant justice to Mayo’s talent, effort, heroism and guts.

Tyrone were well worthy of their victory, and all Mayo congratulates them in what has been another fantastic year in a fantastic decade for them. Your correspondent was at the league game in Healy Park at Easter last year and I was really taken with the warmth of the welcome for the visiting support, and the vibrancy and pride of place the people of Tyrone showed then. They deserve and are worthy of their success at every level.

As for Ray Dempsey’s minors of 2008, their whole lives teem before them, and they must make the most of them. We only come this way once, after all. Perhaps they feel badly about some calls that did not go their way in last Saturday’s game; they shouldn’t, as very little happens in life’s great game that’s particularly fair, and there is even less point in appealing to the referee in that game either. The best policy is generally to bite the bullet, put it behind you and wait for the next kickout.

High stool discussions on who will or won’t make it at senior level will lengthen as the days shorten, but it is a fundamental truth in life that while man proposes, another Power entirely disposes, and His ways are not always easy to figure out. Whatever else happens, and whatever life has in store for these young men, they have worn the green above the red with pride, passion and distinction. They are a credit to their manager and their people and they have all our thanks and best wishes for their futures, whatever side of the markings they find themselves. Maigh Eo abú.

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