Kevin Walsh summons inner Kipling after epic Galway win
‘We take the two imposters the same, winning and losing,’ the Galway manager said
Galway manager Kevin Walsh is congratulated by supporters after the match. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
And if you didn’t believe it the first time, Sunday in Pearse Stadium saw the death of another set of assumptions. Galway were Connacht champions, had home advantage and a decent league campaign under their belt but still the doubts lingered: that last year in Castlebar was a bad day at the office for a Mayo team that recovered to the point of nearly winning the All-Ireland.
Sunday was emphasis: a claustrophobic contest largely played out in the middle third, tactical beyond measure and buffeted by the Atlantic. At the end of it all – 76 and half minutes – Galway had won by a point and made their point against opponents reduced to 14 men in the 27th minute by Keith Higgins’s sending off.
Even Galway’s phlegmatic manager Kevin Walsh couldn’t deny the electrical charge that had the crowd twitching with anxiety.
“It was nerve racking even before the end,” he explained. “It was but we still had our chances on the break. We felt we left one or two points behind us and that we should have closed it out. That made it more nerve racking. But then again it’s the making of a young team that has to dig deep and find a way to win. That was important.
“Last year was really huge in that we had to stop the rot and this year it was important we performed. By tomorrow regardless of results we would sit down and assess how we went.”
In recognition of the achievement Walsh reached for his Kipling.
“I’d be happy with the way we played. We take the two imposters the same, winning and losing, and tomorrow we’ll deal with it regardless. We’re happy with the win and the resilience shown there was huge against the wind.”
Bustling full forward Damien Comer was rather more blunt about how his side had been relegated to underdog status despite last year’s win.
“We still didn’t get the respect that we probably deserved. We were Connacht champions coming into the game and people were still saying, ‘ah it’s Mayo.’
“I know Mayo got to an All-Ireland final and probably should have won both days but we still showed that we can match them toe for toe last year and I think we did the exact same thing today.”
The elephant in the room of all this was Galway’s feeble showing as Connacht champions in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Tipperary, a point addressed by captain Gary O’Donnell.
“A lot of people took last year’s performance against Tipperary as the barometer of where we were at but we did not read too much into that and we just went again this year. We focussed on our own game plan and training. We are where we are which is in a Connacht final and if we don’t perform in that we will be judged on that as well.”
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford pin-pointed the third quarter as when Galway had taken a decisive hold.
“We went four behind in the second half and we had to try and be smart as much as we could and try and not leave space at the back. That’s typically Galway’s game to create the counterattack element so we were trying to get the balance between pushing up, being a man down and obviously not leaving ourselves exposed at the back.”
He was asked would last year’s experience of the qualifiers be a help.
“Time will tell. The amount of experience the team has accumulated over the years will hopefully be a sign that they’re well able to deal with this. As was seen there, and I don’t want to over-emphasise the point, but we played that game for over 50 minutes (with 14 men) against a Division 1 team now, Connacht champions. We had umpteen chances to not just draw that game but win it. They are small margins.”