Under 21s to return to All-Ireland final

AS great and all as the All-Ireland Under 21 victory in 2006 was, it will gall some of the players involved in 2008 and 2007 that they didn’t at least get to the final.

GRABBING THEIR CHANCE: Mike O'Donoghue and Kerry took advantage of Mayo's failure to press home their advantage by going on to defeat us in last year's All-Ireland semi-final before winning the competition outright. Can Mayo clear the penultimate hurdle this year? We reckon so.

GRABBING THEIR CHANCE: Mike O'Donoghue and Kerry took advantage of Mayo's failure to press home their advantage by going on to defeat us in last year's All-Ireland semi-final before winning the competition outright. Can Mayo clear the penultimate hurdle this year? We reckon so.

Connacht titles were won in both years but Mayo were dealt a few hammer blows against Laois in 2007 – Barry Moran stretchered off with a nasty ankle injury and Colm Boyle sent-off which, combined with Pearse Hanley not getting into the game at all, all conspired to dump Mayo out of the competition.

While I wasn’t at the 2008 semi-final defeat to Kerry, I’ve been informed by several reliable sources that Mayo left the game behind them against the team that went onto win the All-Ireland.

So while the four Connacht titles in a row is a great achievement, it would be a poor return if our semi-final record was: won one, lost three. And I feel that this year’s Under 21 side is a better team than 2007 and 2008 (we’ll delay comparisons with 2006 for the moment).

There’s not too many of the starting team, and indeed some substitutes, who can’t go on and play senior for Mayo and we’ve three men who are going to be key for the seniors this summer – captain Tom Parsons, Kevin McLoughlin and Aidan O’Shea.

BIG ROLE: Kevin McLoughlin will probably be handed the tough assignment of marking Down danger man Paul McCommiskey. We reckon the Knockmore dynamo will be well able for it.

BIG ROLE: Kevin McLoughlin will probably be handed the tough assignment of marking Down danger man Paul McCommiskey. We reckon the Knockmore dynamo will be well able for it.

McLoughlin is probably going to be the key man today as he’ll likely be assigned the job of marking Down danger-man, corner-forward Paul McCommiskey. It will take the Knockmore man away from left-half back but I reckon putting any of the regular corner-backs, Eoghan Reilly and John Broderick, both of whom were minor only last year, would be a tough ask.

With that in mind Broderick could lose his place with clubmate Sean Prendergast coming in at wing-back.

The only other selection will concern wing-forward. Talk during the week was of the extreme doubt over the participation of Cathal Freeman but I wouldn’t rule anything out. Freeman was only ruled out of the Connacht final the night before and, unless he has broken down since, the two week gap should  have brought him very close to starting.

If he does start will it be for Brian Gallagher or Frank Burke? We rekon it would be Gallagher but Freeman may start on the bench.

We heard reports during the week of the Down defence looking vulernable in their Ulster final win over Armagh. Our in-form full-forward line have done a phenomenal amount of scoring – hitting 9-14 of our total of 9-34 from the three games thus far. Its a long time since Mayo have had so much of a return from an inside line.

I’ll personally be very happy if Neil Douglas hits the first goal (see bet in article below) but the overall matter will be the concern of will we win or not?

I’m confident (a kiss of death possibly?) and reckon that Mayo are the best team left in this competition. Down’s short rest period from Wednesday’s Ulster final tilts matters even further in our favour and I reckon we’ll win by five. Maigh Eo abu.

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