Mayo overcome Galway to complete a notable four-in-a-row
James Horan’s experienced side ready for another crack at elusive All-Ireland glory
Mayo’s Chris Barrett tackles Eddie Hoare of Galway during the Connacht final. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Even if the ultimate ambition eludes them, this generation of Mayo footballer’s distinguished an era of remarkable commitment and style in becoming the first group of Mayo men to win four Connacht titles in a row since the gods of 1951 did so.
The mid-century men finished the season by winning the Sam Maguire. A lucky omen, maybe, but James Horan’s team have made their own luck over the past few years and accepted the cursed days with admirable stoicism.
Yesterday, on a sunny afternoon in Castlebar, they confirmed they are mentally and physically prepared for a third crack at All-Ireland glory. No collapse Apart from a gloriously promising five-minute burst after half-time, Galway never really threatened to win this match but unlike last year in Salthill, there was no collapse here.
They were buffeted by the physical strength, sophisticated counter-attacking and experience of Mayo, shipped two sucker-punch goals, saw their young talisman Shane Walsh force a wonderful penalty save from Rob Hennelly and still kept coming until the end.
When they review the DVD, they will marvel at the way Lee Keegan sometimes ghosted and sometimes sprinted into the pockets of freedom deep in Galway country to score the first goal, set up the second-half strike for Jason Doherty and fire a brilliant strike off the crossbar. Big Aidan O’Shea was a colossal force for Mayo at centre-half forward, smashing kick-out ball for the waiting green-and-red shirts in the first half and serving as Mayo’s main supply line through the second as well as rumbling forward with intent.
Cillian O’Connor gave a masterful, composed performance in the Mayo front line and kicked an economical 0-8 over the afternoon. Keith Higgins began his day with the apparent intention of terrorising Galway from deep but his adventurous side was curbed when Walsh came alive during Galway’s second-half renaissance. Learning experience This final was a learning experience for Galway. They started out as if the memories of last summer were still drifting around in the back of their mind as they appeared tentative and respectful. From the beginning, they found it difficult to break through the intense Mayo press across the mid-sector. Their cause was made more difficult by the fact that they were playing into a stiff breeze.
While they sought to take the Mayo defenders on in one-on-one situations they got precious little joy out of that policy. As Mayo moved into a four -point lead, the Galway men fired three hugely speculative hit-and-hope efforts which were worse than mere wides as they sent out the signal that they were bereft of ideas.
In contrast, the Mayo attackers had multiple options when in possession. Keith Higgins orchestrated the first three Mayo scores, moving up and down the left of the field as if on a slide rule and carrying the ball into pockets of space. The score which silenced the visiting support came in the 24th minute and originated in another long, high and hopeful ball into Danny Cummins which Mayo’s Chris Barrett claimed and set in motion a swift counterattack.