Red Hands battle to the final whistle

Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin 22/9/2013'Mayo vs Tyrone'Darragh Doherty of Mayo with Frank Burns of Tyrone'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Donall Farmer
Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin 22/9/2013'Mayo vs Tyrone'Darragh Doherty of Mayo with Frank Burns of Tyrone'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Donall Farmer

A scoring blitz either side of the half time whisltle proved decisive for Mayo as they claimed the All Ireland minor title at the expense of a gallant Tyrone side.

Tyrone led for much of the opening half before a goal almost on the stroke of half time from corner forward Tommy Conroy a lead they never surrendered.

While Tyrone only trailed by a point at the break crucially the westerners scored a goal and four points on the resumption to put them into a position of dominance.

While the young Red Hands did close the gap to a goal at a couple of stages having trailed by eight, they never looked like overturning the deficit finishing up a goal down on the Mayo men.

The opening half was a nip and tuck affair with no side able to get more than a point ahead of their opponents until a Mayo goal late in the half.

Tyrone were marginally ahead in the possession stakes in the opening quarter of the game but some slow build up play and slack shooting prevented them from going more than a point ahead.

The young Red Hands opened the scoring in the second minute of the game with midfielder Ronan Nugent getting forward to loft over a point.

His score however was cancelled out by Mayo’s ace marksman full forward Liam Irwin as he pointed a straight forward free to bring the scores level a couple of minutes later.

In the seventh minute of the game Tyrone once again took the lead this time Trillick’s Lee Brennan was on hand to kick a point from a free after Padraig McGirr had been fouled about 25 metres from the Mayo goal.

Irwin responded once again however with another straight forward free from in front of the posts.

Tyrone were breaking even around the middle and committing men forward and Ronan Nugent was on hand again to point from play the big midfielder’s high hanging effort dropped over the Mayo crossbar but Irwin again provided the Mayo score at the opposite end again from a free.

Ardboe’s David Mulgrew was the youngest man on the field at 15 years of age but he demonstrated composure beyond his tender years to kick the next point from under the Hogan Stand as Tyrone took the lead once again.

A Mayo attack soon after almost yielded disastrous results for Tyrone as a great goal chance for corner forward Tommy Conroy as he blazed wide with only Sean Fox to beat. Mayo could well have had a penalty but having given the Connacht champions the advantage referee Conor Lane couldn’t take play back.

The Red Hands extended their lead to two points as Ruairi McGlone swung a point over brilliantly.

Mayo hit back, however, with Irwin brilliantly firing over a free from the sideline.

With the half nearly done Mayo thrust a dagger into the Tyrone hearts with Conroy riding a couple of tackles to fire the ball into the roof of the net despite goalkeeper Sean Fox getting a hand on the ball.

Tyrone responded with a late Conor McKenna free to make the gap just a solitary point.

On the resumption of play the Mayo men seemed to be more fired up and points from Conor Loftus, Darragh Doherty and Conroy in the opening five minutes gave Tyrone a mountain to climb.

Things went from bad to worse with Loftus then firing low past Sean Fox to leave Tyrone almost out of sight.

To their credit Tyrone dug deep. Frank Burns, a rock around the middle for Tyrone, became more involved and the introduction of Cathal McShane and Philip Donnelly gave Mickey Donnelly’s young charges a much needed boost.

Scores from Lee Brennan, Daire Gallagher and Donnelly brought Tyrone back within touching distance.

The westerners kicked on however and responded through Loftus twice and then Conroy.

Cathal McShane had made his presence felt however and he scored from play and won a free that Brennan converted to reduce the gap.

Tyrone’s chances relied on them getting the last score, but after McKenna pointed, Conor Byrne and Conroy kicked points for Mayo to give them a six point advantage in injury time.

Tyrone did give themselves a chance with a Conor McKenna goal but it was too little, too late as Mayo broke their minor final hoodoo and brought the Tom Markham Cup back to the country for the first time since 1985.