Mayo keep rolling on, Galway keep rolling over. This Connacht final played out as the ultimate display of the distance between the major warring factions of the west right now. One team has been through it all, has seen it all and knows the way home. The other has miles to slog before they even get to the starting line.
The final scoreline of 2-14 to 2-8 doesn't really do justice to the napalming Galway took in the second half here. They went into the break five points ahead, courtesy of a couple of goals from Shane Walsh and Damien Comer. Mayo were glitchy and incoherent, crackling like AM radio.
But then Pádraic Joyce’s side came out for the second half and were just so passive and wan that you’d wonder if they had been paying attention to Mayo this past decade at all. Even on their worst days in Croke Park, Mayo have never not turned up. They came back here with all the belligerence and frenzy that has rocked and rolled this stadium countless times and by the time the music played at the end, they had outscored Galway by 2-8 to 0-3 in the second half.
"There wasn't any panic at half-time," said James Horan afterwards. "We had a lot of possession in the first half, we just wasted a lot of it. Particularly up front – the final pass, the shots and options that we took, we put ourselves under pressure. They got a goal off the post where we were slack and asleep for it. And the second goal as well, I thought we had Shane [Walsh] covered but if you give him a bit of space, he's gone – so it was a poor goal to give away too. But we knew we weren't a million miles off."
Galway probably didn't cover quite as much acreage with that fuel as they'd have liked, with Walsh and Mattie Tierney both making a mess of pretty straightforward frees and Peter Cooke unlucky to have had a point that would have stood in a normal Connacht final venue called back by Hawkeye. But they were spry and direct through Walsh, Comer and Paul Conroy and were decent value for their lead.
Walsh was injured soon after his goal, crumpling on his shoulder after a tangle with Pádraig O’Hora off the ball. It looked from a distance like little more than a normal bout of wrestling but Joyce was only barely simmering when asked about it afterwards.
“He hurt his shoulder. He got dumped to the ground, thrown on the ground and nothing happened. There’s seven or eight officials there at the match. I’d seen what happened, but obviously they didn’t see it. It’s frustrating when that happens and they get away with it.”
Whatever the cause of his injury, Walsh was a non-factor after half-time. The rest of his team-mates had no such excuse. They were suddenly second to the ball all over the pitch, if they arrived at all. They surely had to have anticipated Mayo to go into shock-and-awe mode and yet their response was just so sluggish and callow.
Aidan O'Shea went in full forward and immediately sent Mattie Ruane through to be fouled for a penalty that Ryan O'Donoghue dispatched. Tommy Conroy, so poor in the first half, turned his day around. Kevin McLoughlin came off the bench and brought all his wisdom and craft with him.
The game was level by the 48th minute, tilting Mayo’s way when Conroy nabbed his second to put them three clear in the 53rd and more or less out of sight when Tierney finally scored Galway’s first point of the second half on the hour mark. Ruane plundered his goal soon after and that was that.
And so Mayo go through to their 10th All-Ireland semi-final in 11 years. For a bit of context, consider the fact that before 2011 they had been in 10 All-Ireland semi-finals in the previous 30 years. They are still hurtling forward, still flawed in so many ways, still unwaveringly, unabashedly themselves.
Whoever beats them will have earned it. Maybe nobody will. Stranger things have happened.