Both sides have good reasons to be upbeat

 

SPORT WORKS in funny ways. Nobody really paid much heed when Mayo exited the championship before the glamour stages last year, after suffering one-point losses at the hands of Galway and then Tyrone.

They sucked those defeats up, trained and found themselves at the end of a one-point victory here. Swings and roundabouts.

John O’Mahony orchestrated many fine days here as Galway manager, but after a big outpouring of Mayo celebration in the stadium, he seemed strangely calm about it all.

“Ah, it was heart-stopping stuff. We wanted to test the hearts of 30,000 out there and we did that. It was great to win and I would like to pay tribute to the players for the composure they showed.

“What was most important at that stage, and often talked about, is how you react to a setback rather than the setback itself. We needed to get that ball and we had to do it into the teeth of a wind and Peader Gardiner, he must be dreaming of scoring a point like that all his life in a Connacht final. That is a wonderful feeling.

“There was this talk during the week that we haven’t won here since 1967,” he continued.

“I remember being here at that game in 1967 and I remember getting Ray Prendergast’s autograph. But trying to hang that around these guys’ necks – I don’t think there was many fellas in there who were here in 1967.

“I stood here two years ago when we were beaten out the door by seven or eight points and we all realised we had a job of work to do to rebuild.

“We came frustratingly close last year, but there is a world of difference when you are a point behind at the end than where we are today. All we have today is to show we have made a bit of progress in those few years.”

Gardiner will be talking about his last-gasp point for many years, whether he likes it or not.

He remembered the churning feeling that accompanied Michael Meehan’s late strike.

“To be honest I was absolutely gutted. We were holding on really for a draw – time was up. I thought that was it. We got a bit of luck. We are just delighted – if we didn’t come out of here with a win after having a five or six-point lead we would have been dead in that dressingroom. And I am just delighted we got out with a win.”

Galway boss Liam Sammon feels his team have more to offer.

“We didn’t die. We came back each time. Even though a lot of the players didn’t play to their full potential, I was pleased with a lot of aspects of our play. We had a couple of goal chances in the first half and they didn’t happen for us. I felt if we kept plugging away, we would get our scores and it would come down to the last kick of the game – as it did. Unfortunately, we are at the wrong side of it.”