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.
Cillian O’Connor carried the ball along the Galway endline before squaring a ball for the in-rushing Lee Keegan to palm home. That left it at 1-6 to 0-2 and an ominous quiet settled over the ground.
But the visitors stayed on the outskirts of contention with late first-half points from Paul Conroy and Danny Cummins and emerged after the Lucozade break to worry Mayo with five sensational minutes which included0-3 from play and two brilliant goal chances, including a bravura effort from Walsh which rattled the crossbar. Old struggle Still, there was no disguising the fact that Mayo still firmly holds the balance of power in this old struggle.
They didn’t blink when confronted with this show of maroon impudence.
But the move seemed to act as a sat-nav for the team. Thereafter, they opened the Galway defence with their backs-and-forwards running game. Jason Doherty had acres to work in after collecting possession from Séamus O’Shea to fire Mayo back into the comfort zone in the 48th minute.
Ten minutes later, Keegan danced through to give Barry Moran the easiest of flicks into an empty net. On both occasions, Galway had the courage to respond with scores: Mayo were never allow to turn this into a procession.
Séamus O’Shea drew the lone black card in the match, dragging Paul Conroy down as the Galway captain charged through on goal.
By then, Horan was shuffling the decks anyhow. There was a sense that Mayo’s attack will evolve as they move towards the crucial part of the season and a third attempt to reconcile with Sean Flanagan’s generation of footballers who are still revered in the county.
MAYO: 1 R Hennelly; 2 C Barrett, 3 G Cafferkey, 4 K Higgins; 5 L Keegan (1-1), 6 C Boyle, 7 D Vaughan; 8 S O’Shea (1-0), 9 B Moran, 10 K McLoughlin (0-3), 11 A O’Shea, 12 J Doherty (1-1); 13 C O’Connor (0-8 5 frees), 14 A Moran, 15 A Dillon (0-1). Subs: 24 M Conroy for 15 A Dillon (44 mins), 23 A Freeman for 14 A Moran (52 mins), J Gibbons for S O’Shea (58 mins black card), 17 K Keane for 6 C Boyle (67 mins), 20 D O’Connor for 12 J Doherty (67 mins), 25 M Sweeney for 11 A O’Shea.
GALWAY: 1 M Breathnach, 17 A Tierney, 3 F Hanley, 2 D O’Neill; 5 G Bradshaw (0-1), 6 G O’Donnell, 7 P Varley; 8 F O’Curraoin, 9 T Flynn; 10 M Lundy (0-1), 11 S Walsh (0- 8 5 frees), 12 D Comer; 13 P Conroy (0-4), 14 R Hoare, 15 D Cummins. Subs: 22 J Kavanagh for 12 D Comer (24 mins), S Armstrong (0-2) for D Cummins, 19 D Burke for A Tierney (44 mins), 21 G Higgins for 14 D Hoare (55 mins), 23 J O’Brien for M Lundy (61 mins).
Referee : R Hickey (Clare).