Alan Dillon: ‘Mayo minors are playing a beautiful brand of football. Nothing seems to faze them’

Former Mayo player says Dr Hyde Park is conducive towards a fast, open game that will suit both teams

For months now, the Electric Ireland GAA All-Ireland Minor Football Championship appears to have been revolving around Mayo and Galway.

The neighbouring duo met twice themselves in Connacht before veering off and taking out the rest of the national opposition.

The western rivals will meet for a third time at Dr Hyde Park with the title on the line, presenting a unique challenge for Mayo — to beat the same team three times in the one campaign.

Sean Deane’s Mayo hammered Galway 1-15 to 0-4 in mid-May in the group stage of the Connacht championship and were convincing 0-13 to 0-7 winners again in last month’s provincial final.

Galway bounced back with huge wins over Leinster champions Dublin and Derry, destroyers of Munster champions Cork, in the All-Ireland series.

So for two-time minor finalist and former Mayo senior captain Alan Dillon, the fear is that despite winning those two huge battles with Galway already, his county could still potentially lose the war.

“It’s a difficult one for the Mayo management having had those two victories already,” said Dillon. “To play the same team three times in the one year, in the championship, is probably unique in itself. I’m sure the Galway players feel they have an awful lot to play for after those heavy losses to their rivals and near neighbours.

“That angle is what has a lot of people focused on this game. It’s unique really and I’m sure there’s going to be a sting in the Galway tail. They’ll be very much waiting for this opportunity, especially after the Connacht final defeat.

“Certainly they’ve improved since then, we saw them with a great win over Dublin, and it’s really just a matter of how much have they improved and have they closed the gap significantly in light of what Mayo did to them in the previous games. It makes for a great challenge from Mayo’s point of view too.”

Mayo breezed through Connacht with 46 points to spare after five big wins and then took out Kildare and Kerry.

Their campaign started with a landslide 16-point win over Leitrim — who Galway lost to. That was one of three losses from six Connacht championship games that Galway suffered but the 2007 All-Ireland Minor Football Championship winners have regrouped magnificently since.

Colm Costello, fresh off 1-4 against Derry, and Eanna Monaghan are key figures in attack while joint captain Ronan Clarke and Niall Hurley have struck big tallies for Mayo.

“There’s a great energy to this current Mayo team,” said Dillon. “They’re playing a beautiful brand of football. Nothing really seems to faze them.

“The noticeable thing to me is that they’re really playing on the front foot. Young Paul Gilmore in the half-back line, John MacMonagle at full-back, they look like they’re really comfortable in what they’re doing.

“And then they have that bit of class up front, that bit of composure to make the right decisions. It’s very positive to see so many talented footballers who are so comfortable in tight and difficult situations, that’s the most pleasing aspect for me with this current Mayo squad.”

Mayo have already been to Dr Hyde Park once in the campaign, beating Roscommon there back in late April. “The pitch is conducive towards a fast, open game — I think it’ll suit both teams,” said Dillon. “I don’t think there’ll be much consideration given to the fact that one of the teams has played there already this year.

“The atmosphere will be great because the pitch there is quite close to the stand and to the terraces. I think the Galway and Mayo supporters will travel well and in good numbers. With Galway still in the senior Championship, Galway football is in a very positive place and this is a great opportunity for them to really kick-start what could be a massive weekend for the county.”