Mayo’s Brian Reape admits his county underachieved last year but ahead of today’s EirGrid Connacht U21 final he hopes they will respond to the pressure of playing the dominant force of underage football in the province.
”Yeah I suppose the Roscommon under-21s have been really dominant, they’re going for three in a row and five in seven so they’ve really been the county in Connacht in the last few years,” Reape says. “And look, they’ve been putting a lot of work in on underage, which is showing with the way the senior team is going.
“So there’s a great buzz around Roscommon football at the moment, but for us it’s about trying to perform to the best of our ability and hoping we can put in a performance that we’re happy with. That’s the main thing.”
And Reape says that Mayo’s recent upturn in senior fortunes will have no bearing on today’s result.
“We’ve been so busy the last few weeks that we haven’t really been thinking about the seniors and how they’re doing but hopefully they can stay up in the league,” he says.
“For us, we’d been concentrating for weeks on the Leitrim game, we knew they were going to be a great side and luckily enough for us we got the win. So going into the Connacht final now, people are trying to motivate the team and yeah there is a buzz around, Mayo people love their football and that’s still there of course.
“We’ve had a lot of challenge games and we were entered into the North West Cup as well, so we prepared incredibly well for Leitrim. There were a lot of aspects that weren’t right in the Leitrim game that we’re going to have to improve.”
With five under-21 players on the Mayo senior squad, Reape feels that the county can only benefit in the long run.
“It’s a different set-up this year, new guys are in and I think only six of the lads who started last year are here again this year so it’s about going get back into it the set-up again because last year wasn’t good enough.”
“There’s no doubt about that, Mayo seriously underachieved at 21 level and that includes us last year. So this year we obviously got a great win at the start, we’re in the Connacht final now and playing a great side who are going for three in a row. The hunger is there big time, not being in a final for seven years is just not good enough.”
Reape is studying Accounting and Finance at DCU and takes some training sessions midweek in Dublin alongside other Mayo under-21s and seniors under the eye of Tony McEntee.
“Three hours down, it’s not practical, getting out of the car and going training, you’re not right,” Reape says of frequent midweek journeys back home.
“We actually train with the seniors in Dublin. There would be about 20, it’s a large number.
“Most lads are working or in college up here and then there’s a collective session at home. It’s rather than having lads out doing runs on their own, we get a group together and have a great session.
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