Gaelic GamesMatch Report

Mayo maintain grip over neighbours Galway with dominant win in Pearse Stadium

Goals in either half, one for Eoghan McLaughlin, the other a Cillian O’Connor penalty, send Kevin McStay’s team on their way to victory

National Football League Division One: Galway 0-10 Mayo 2-12

The theory that Galway would kick back at last season’s failure to beat Mayo and ensure that 2024 started accordingly didn’t survive a windy afternoon – even by Salthill standards – in Pearse Stadium.

Not that it should have given the home side’s list of indisposed players, which lengthened before throw-in with the news that Damien Comer had been withdrawn, having sustained a knock on Thursday, according to manager Pádraic Joyce.

That’s the context but the substance of this Allianz Football League Division One encounter was that Mayo played really well to drum out a convincing victory which gets their season off to a bright start.

They too were missing first-choice players, but not as many as Galway, and overall manager Kevin McStay saw a display of hard work, especially in the first half against the notorious wind after losing the toss, and they actually went in at half time leading by four, 1-6 to 0-5.


In the second half the home side were more energised. Joyce praised the efforts of Seán Mulkerrin in his first full match in over a year after injury. The team, however, was unable to make a sufficiently sustained impact on the deficit, which never shrank throughout and at times expanded to six. Mayo were able to harness the elements better and rifled over a few points from distance to keep the home side at arm’s length.

Although McStay was reluctant to get into personal testimonies he did accept that Fergal Boland had given an excellent display. He opened the scoring in both halves and concluded it before half time for 0-3 as well as providing the goal assist, and his manager forgave the later easing off.

“He has really gone after this with all his heart and he got his just rewards. He had a really good performance, tired a little bit, which is totally understandable – he’s not too long back from Australia.”

Galway could never establish a foothold even with the wind, and whereas Liam Ó Conghaile shot a couple of nice points with the wind, he also missed some. Yet not one of the other forwards managed to get more than one from play. Shane Walsh also had a mixed bag, converting some frees but not threatening to cut loose in play.

Mayo effectively mastered the elements by playing a patient possession game into the wind. At times it was purely defensive – to keep the ball away from Galway, especially during Ryan O’Donoghue’s sin binning for a trip on Eoin Kelly – but it was also a good attacking platform as runners were released into space to create close-in chances for scores.

Most tellingly, in the 12th minute Boland sent in Eoghan McLaughlin, whose running was a constant early threat, for a nice finish to the net and a scoreline, 1-2 to 0-2, that was already starting to make unfeasible demands on opponents who would be facing a second-half wind.

Aidan O’Shea had another durable outing as a facilitator, his robustness on the ball hard to shake and his distribution accurate, as when popping to McLaughlin after half an hour even if the move ended disappointingly.

The team effort was comprehensive. Colm Reape’s kickouts were accurate and productive, and the improvised centrefield combination of Jordan Flynn and Jack Carney thrived.

Defence was also quick and effective, with the pace of McLaughlin, David McBrien and Paddy Durcan a constant barrier to Galway’s attempts to piece together movements. There was also a litany of turnovers from dispossessions – to be fair, Galway had their fair share too but Mayo carried a more relentless threat.

After Walsh had trimmed the deficit again to four, 0-8 to 1-9, it was the visitors who emphatically won the run for the tape, by 1-2 to 0-1. These scores came from the Mayo bench with Paul Towey shooting two nice points and the impressively energetic Diarmuid Duffy, zipping from his own goalmouth to Galway’s, getting fouled for a penalty in the 72nd minute, which Cillian O’Connor converted.

“There’s no eternal truths in round one, I can assure you,” said McStay afterwards. “But two points in the bag puts you a little bit in charge of what might happen over the next few matches in terms of better to have two now than be chasing two. We have Dublin next Saturday – that will fairly sober us up. And if we’re going into that with zero everything gets a bit tighter. But now, maybe, we can look at it through a slightly different lens.”

For Joyce, with none of his injured big hitters, captain Seán Kelly, Cillian McDaid and Liam Silke due back in the short term, it’s a question of getting back on track.

“It is disappointing, obviously disappointing. But it is the first league game of the year at the same time.”

Mayo: C Reape; J Coyne, S Callinan, R Brickenden; P Durcan (0-1), D McBrien, E McLaughlin (1-0); J Carney (0-1), J Flynn (0-2); C Reid, F Boland (0-3), B Tuohy (0-1); T Conroy, A O’Shea, R O’Donoghue (0-2, two frees). Subs: D Duffy for Reid (46 mins), P Towey (0-2) for Conroy (56 mins), C O’Connor (1-0, penalty) for O’Shea (60 mins), D McHugh for Tuohy (63 mins), S Coen for Boland (70 mins).

Galway: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Fitzgerald, E Kelly; S Mulkerrin, J Daly, K Molloy; J Maher, D McHugh (0-1); J Heaney, S Walsh (0-5, three frees, one 45), C Darcy; L Ó Conghaile (0-2), N Daly, C Sweeney (0-1). Subs: M Tierney for N Daly (19 mins), P Conroy for Heaney (half-time), C Ó Curraoin (0-1) for Molloy (50 mins), R Finnerty for Darcy (52 mins), D O’Flaherty for (mins).

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times