Galway Garda are back in the Connacht Senior Football final and on course for three All Ireland titles in succession after a narrow one-point victory over a resilient Mayo Teachers.
The Garda, who have yet to hit top form, struggled for long periods as the Mayo side enjoyed the lion’s share of procession in this semi-final at the Connacht Centre Of Excellence in Ballyhaunis during the week.
However the Galway players never panicked, using their experience to pull them through by 1-8 to 0-10, and they will now play Prison Officers, Castlerea in the final.
Mayo started the brighter. Helped by some slack play in the Garda rearguard, Tom Naughton fisted a point in the opening minutes, and more scores from Mikey Togher and Mick Rocke ensured the Teachers were three clear inside the opening10 minutes.
However the Tribesmen responded when another Mayo man Colm Boyle opened the Garda account. As the Garda became more involved and Emmett Rocke and Robert Molloy got to grips in the vital midfield sector, the Garda began to enjoy plenty of procession.
Good interplay involving Niall Lydon and Robert Molloy set up Mark Walkin who was denied by Teachers’ keeper Emmett Peylon at the expense of a 45, which was expertly converted by Shane Nallon to narrow the gap to one.
Moments later the sides were level when Niall Lydon fed Mark Walkin who turned his man to fire over. They hit the front for the first time when Emmett Rocke landed a long-range effort after 18 minutes.
What turned out to be the decisive score came four minutes later. The Garda, who were well on top, launched another swift attack putting Shane Nallon through. He was bundled to the ground inside the box by keeper Emmett Peyton who picked up a yellow card for his troubles.
Cormac Bane fired the resultant penalty to the roof of the Mayo net to leave the Galway men in a commanding position.
However thereafter Galway began to lose their way, and despite going 16 minutes without scoring, the Teachers were only two behind at the interval thanks to late points from Dermot Costello and Stephen Keane, Galway Garda 1-04 Mayo Teachers 0-05.
Dermot Costello and Colm Boyle exchanged early second-half points before Bane opened up a three-point lead for Galway.
However points in quick succession from Michael Lynott and David McDonagh left the match finely poised entering the final quarter.
Another Cormac Bane point gave the Galway men breathing space before a terrific Stephen Keane score from the sideline brought the margin back to the minimum with seven minutes to play.
The Garda needed all their experience to hold the Teachers at bay. Playing down the clock, Pat Casey found the range with two minutes to go, but once again Teachers hit back when Stephen Keane struck a free as the match entered injury time. Teachers had one late chance to force extra time, but Keane’s late free close to the sideline went narrowly wide in the last action of the match.
Galway Garda: A Keane, A Prender, Padraig Kelly, J Kelly, C Boyle (0-2), Pat Kelly, S Durcan, E Rocke (0-2), R Molloy, P Casey (0-1), M Caffrey, N Lydon, C Bane (1-2), M. Walkin, S Nallon (0-1). Subs: P Moran, P McBride.
Mayo Teachers: E Peyton, D Ginty, D Forde, K Shanahan, A McLoughlin, D McDonagh (0-1), K Gallagher, M Togher (0-1), D Ryan, D Costello (0-2), T Naughton (0-1), M Rocke (0-1), S Kean(0-3), M Lynott (0-1), N Douglas.
Referee: John Glavey (Ballyhaunis) .