Dempsey knows what's required
September 17, 2009
Mayo's Ray Dempsey
Mayo Minor Footballers will hope for better this time around in this September's ESB All-Ireland Minor Football Championship Final after losing to Tyrone following a replay 12 months ago. However Mayo manager Ray Dempsey knows that his side face a stiff test against an Armagh side eager to bridge a 60-year wait for All-Ireland glory in this grade.
With almost a totally new squad from the one which lost last year's All-Ireland decider so painfully after a replay defeat to Tyrone, Mayo were left to rebuild a side capable of challenging for All-Ireland honours this year.
Two of last year's key players Aidan Walsh and Alex Corduff were back for more in 2009, and have certainly provided the backbone of the side this year, with Walsh acting as captain.
However their manager Ray Dempsey isn't keen to focus on individual performances and believes that all of his players have shown leadership qualities and stepped up to the mark when required this year.
"To get to the All-Ireland Final you need everyone pulling their weight and bringing something to the team or something to the setup. To get to this level of football everyone has to row in. There will be questions asked of every player on the pitch and it's all
about working hard for every player on the team," he said.
The Knockmore clubman is relishing his role as the Westerners manager, but says the management are only as good as the players that they have at their disposal.
"We have to do our job right and you are hoping you can coach and encourage the players to do their job right.
History will play its' own role in Sunday's final - Armagh chasing a first success since 1949 and Mayo trying to bridge a long gap without silverware since 1985.
But Dempsey says that both sides this weekend won't be thinking of bridging long gaps and are just keen to get on with the task at hand.
"Armagh are looking for their first title in 60 years. We can only be accountable for what we have done in the last few years at Minor and the minor players this year can only be accountable for what they have achieved. There is no weight on our shoulders from history or anything like that and neither is there on Armagh. The Armagh lads are just looking forward to bringing their game to the All-Ireland final of 2009 and we are the same."
The teams have already faced each other this year - a Challenge game in May to set the ball rolling for the rest of the year.
2008 was a bleak one for Armagh Minors with an Ulster Championship loss to Cavan, so the Orchard County were certainly keen to make amends.
The sides met in Clones last May, with Armagh lining out with the same starting 15 which has shone throughout this years Championship for them.
Armagh won that game by nine points, but they will face a very different Mayo team this weekend - both in terms of personnel and a hungrier outfit - now that silverware is on offer.
However Dempsey is fully aware that his side have a huge battle on their hands if they are to overcome the Orchard County.
"We would have actually played Armagh in a challenge and they beat us easily enough on the day. They are a quality team and they have been a quality team all year. Most teams in the country knew that they were going to be there or thereabouts at the end of the year. It is a great credit to them and their management that they are around for the last day of the year."
Mayo have also been impressive this year, but Dempsey believes that it is very hard to gauge if his side have peaked at the right time to take silverware.
"It's very hard to monitor that. The lads do their best every day they go out and they know if they don't have a performance and put in the hard yards against Armagh that we are not going to be able to live with them. Armagh are unbeaten all year - they won the Ulster league and the Ulster Championship. They have beaten a good Kerry team in the semi-final and now they are into the final. We are just looking at our own things and what we can control and that's our own preparation."
Mayo goalkeeper Michael Slingermann earned plaudits in his sides semi-final win over Down for an excellent display and some vital saves. Dempsey knows that his defence will be very much up against it this weekend with the talent Armagh have on offer in their attack.
However it is nothing less than the Knockmore native expects from opponents contesting this stage of the Championship.
"When you get to this stage of the Championship you are going to be marking quality players. We have to be up to match speed and to be alert to have any chance of marking the Armagh forwards.
"You can throw in Ruairi Grugan who is a top class footballer who kicked some excellent scores in the Ulster final. He is a huge player along with (Robbie) Tasker, (Gavin) McParland and Eugene McVerry. Throw in Carragher and Murnin at midfield and you have a formidable team. We are just going to hope and try and be with them for as long as we can."
Like any side ahead of a big match day, nerves always play a role and the Mayo minors are no different. However Dempsey says that this isn't a negative and it shows that players are very focussed on the task at hand when nerves set in.
"Nerves are a good thing. It's great to see fellas nervous as it shows that they are tuned in for what they are going into. The dream for a lot of young lads is to play at Croke Park and you wouldn't be human if you didn't have some sort of nerves or tension."
He added, "The county is behind this Minor team and they are wishing them well. The players are looking forward to it and enjoying it."
And Dempsey reveals that the Mayo management are just as eagerly anticipating Sunday's decider as much as the players are.
"Excitement might be a funny word - it's a great honour and a great privilege. A lot of coaches would love to be coaching a team going into an All-Ireland final. There are four managers involved in the last GAA day of the year - two Senior and two Minor and that's a great privilege. I'd always respect that as it won't be around every year. You just have to enjoy it and see what way the winds blow."
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