Mayo strike early to smooth the path into the Super 8s
James Carr’s brace of goals consigns Galway to a first defeat in this fixture since 2015
Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor celebrates his team’s win over Galway in Limerick. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Mayo 2-13 Galway 1-13
Mayo, the great survivors of qualifier football over the past four years, made up for their only lapse – last year – by reaching the last eight of the All-Ireland championship for the eighth time in the past nine years and so gave themselves a first shot at the Super 8s, beginning in a week’s time against Munster champions Kerry, who they have already beaten twice this year.
Almost as satisfying is that in this crucial round-four qualifier, they inflicted a first defeat on Galway in this fixture for four years.
The final score is a bit of a distortion. Shane Walsh drove a 75th-minute free into the net to cut the margin from six to three. It was the last score of the match.
After a scrambled and barely merited win over Armagh a week previously, this was more like the familiar Mayo, all energy and running but with a welcome flash of attacking menace from Darren Coen, the television Man of the Match, who built on his 0-5 against Armagh with another three here.
Most influentially, corner forward James Carr exploded into the fray in the opening exchanges, firing in two goals in the opening nine minutes. They proved priceless assets, insulating Mayo against Galway’s panicky attempts to get back into the match and providing just enough of a cushion in the closing stages to preserve an advantage.
Carr had blipped onto the national radar in March’s league final when he made his debut as the first player from Ardagh, a junior club, to play senior for Mayo after he had been added to the panel. He scored a couple of points from play then and manager James Horan praised his contribution and confidence on the ball.
On Saturday he set the terms of this engagement first in the seventh minute when Darren Coen underhit an attempt at a point only for Bernard Power – stepping in this week as a late selection in Galway’s strange Lanigan’s Ball approach to the goalkeeping position – to spill possession for Carr to score the first goal.
The second a couple of minutes later required no such good fortune, as he topped off a Mayo attack by scything in from the right wing past Liam Silke and as if into another dimension with no Galway players going near him before a cracker of a finish for a 2-2 to 0-2 lead.
It was very hard to see a way back for Galway even at such an early stage. The problem for Kevin Walsh’s team was simply that they are not built to chase matches, certainly not ones as remotely disconnected as this rapidly became.
Both teams played a sweeper in the initial stages – John Daly for Galway and Colm Boyle for Mayo – and the match ebbed and flowed with Galway making few inroads, too ponderous in the immediate build-up and too hasty with the final ball. But for Peter Cooke, whose marksmanship landed four points from play, they would have been totally adrift.
The usually claustrophobic exchanges of this fixture suited the occasional rapier thrusts of Galway’s artful forwards but with goals urgently required, they were well contained.
By half-time, Carr’s two goals stood like a memento mori on the scoreboard, 2-7 to 0-7. Mayo made the livelier start on the resumption, outscoring their opponents 0-3 to 0-1 by the 46th minute. Their 10th point, scored by Jason Doherty, had a bravura assist from Cillian O’Connor, starting for the first time this summer, who switched the ball to Doherty with what was more a sleight of hand than a pass.
Galway’s best chance of dragging the match back into the contested category was a penalty in the 54th minute. When Eamonn Brannigan missed one in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, the mitigating circumstance was that regular penalty taker Liam Silke was absent but Silke did no better and David Clarke saved after Ian Burke had been pulled down.
Galway managed three points in a row to get the margin to three, 0-13 to 2-10 but Mayo pulled away again.
Damien Comer had come in for the second half for his first competitive match in nearly a year but the rust showed. He did win the free for Walsh’s late goal but Galway were out-gunned on the evening and flattered by the final margin.
Matters also became raucous by the end with Galway reduced to 12 men after Burke received a second yellow in the 71st minute and the Dalys, John and Michael picked up injury-time black cards after the bench had been run.
Mayo now head for Killarney in a week’s time, wheels fully back on the tracks.
MAYO: 1. D Clarke; 2. C Barrett, 3. B Harrison, 4. K Higgins; 5. P Durcan (capt.), 6. C Boyle, 8. S Coen (0-1); 21. D Vaughan (0-1), 9. A O’Shea; 10. F McDonagh, 11. J Doherty (0-1), 15. K McLaughlin (0-1); 20. J Carr (2-0), 14. D Coen (0-3), 13. C O’Connor (0-6, five frees).
Subs: 12. C Treacy for McLaughlin (51 mins), 22. E Regan for Carr (55 mins), 26. L Keegan for McDonagh (63 mins), 7. M Plunkett for Doherty (70 mins), 17. E O’Donoghue for Durcan (75 mins), 23. S O’Shea for Vaughan (77 mins).
GALWAY: 16. B Power; 2. E Kerin, 24. D Kyne, 4. L Silke; 5. G O’Donnell (capt; 0-1), 7. J Daly, 6. C McDaid (0-1); 10. P Cooke (0-4), 9. M Daly (0-1); 12. J Heaney, 11. S Walsh (1-3, 1-2 frees and 45), 23. S Kelly; 17. E Brannigan (0-2), 14. M Farragher, 15. I Burke.
Subs: 3. SA Ó Ceallaigh for Kerin (28 mins), 19. D Comer for Kelly (half-time), 13. A Ó Laoi for Farragher (43 mins), 8. T Flynn for McDaid (56 mins), 25. K Molloy (0-1) for Heaney (60 mins), 26. A Varley for Brannigan (66 mins),
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).