Most of us travelled to Páirc Mhic hÉil in Castlebar on Sunday morning more in hope than expectation, and in many ways the game turned out pretty much as expected, with a relatively easy win for the home side.
Despite a lot of “huff and puff” from Galway at times, nobody can deny they were well beaten by James Horan’s men.
The champions always looked in control and only a massively misguided Galway supporter could believe we ever looked likely of winning.
Many people have taken solace that it was 17 scores to 16, but the scoreline of 3-14 to 0-16, could have contained a few more Mayo majors.
All week I have heard how we could have scored a goal or two, which would have changed the game a bit, but, by my calculations, Mayo could have had three more green flags too.
They were denied a stonewall penalty at the start of the second half. Lee Keegan also made an awful effort at a goal with his shot when he was in acres of space (again ) and totally unmarked in front of Manus Breathnach, and the O’Neills bombed off the crossbar for a point. And Kevin McLoughlin hit tamely at Breathnach when he was one-on-one with him in the closing minutes too. All those could have been "Mayo majors" too.
Corner backs leaked badly
Our corner backs creaked and leaked badly throughout the contest and were in major trouble from the start.
The loss of Joss Moore through injury was keenly felt and Aonghus Tierney, while an honest and decent player, struggled with the game’s pace.
Donal O’Neill found Cillian O’Connor far too hot to handle and it was hard to believe he was not taken off the Ballintubber man at any stage. Admittedly the management's options were not great, but surely some change should have been made. Even throwing Gareth Bradshaw back on him seemed a viable option.
To be fair to O' Neill, the quality of ball coming in to O’Connor made a very tough job almost impossible.
That said, Donal will know himself that he should never have allowed O’Connor to get inside him on the end line to set up Mayo’s crucial first goal.
Once Mayo went 1-6 to 0-2 up after Keegan’s goal, did anyone really believe that they were going to be turned over?
The dearth of experienced defenders on the Galway bench has to be a major concern going into the Tipperary game in nine days’ time. Especially as the Tipp men have a razor sharp full-forward line with Conor Sweeney, Philip Austin and Barry Grogan currently in superb form. That trio scored a combined 3-9 (0-2fs ) in their 3-17 to 4-9 win over Laois last Saturday.
The fact that Corofin’s Daithí Burke had to be parachuted from the bench last Sunday despite having only joined the football panel earlier in the week really highlighted a serious lack of defensive manpower.
Galway struggled badly with Aidan O’Shea at centre-forward too and Mayo had their tactics well worked out in targeting him with their own kick-out. Gary O’Donnell seemed to get caught in two minds as to whether to attack the ball with him, or stay back to try to protect his full-back line.
If Galway were to have any chance of creating a massive upset in the Connacht final, they were going to have to be incredibly efficient and ruthless in front of the Mayo goal. Instead both Danny Cummins, who did work hard and won a few frees, and Eddie Hoare shot some very poor wides in the first half.
They hit three wide each and that lack of composure will have to improve enormously across the entire forward line if Galway are to get out of Tullamore with a win and place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Positives from the game
Shane Walsh, Paul Conroy and Michael Lundy did do some encouraging things.
Walsh hit 0-7 (5fs ) and looked dangerous in possession. He needs to be fed ball regularly and if he can get into one-on-one positions with defenders, he can do real damage.
Hopefully last weekend will bring him on a bit too and we need him to stay composed on the ball. He had one or two wild efforts and he needs to work on that aspect of his game.
Lundy did some constructive work on the right wing and took his point well. He has genuine pace and Galway have to work at maximising his benefit to the team.
Paul Conroy showed good leadership, especially in the second half and his four points were vital in keeping Galway in touch and away from a mauling.
The game had the potential to become a real whipping for Galway at stages in the second half, but to their credit the team knuckled down and kept driving at the Mayo rearguard. If Shane Walsh’s penalty had raised a green flag, it would also have given a bit of impetus to Galway going into the last 10 minutes.
The bottom line is that Mayo won their four-in-a-row and are in the quarter-finals and hoping it will be third time lucky next September.
Galway have a date with Peter Creedon’s Tipperary in Tullamore (7pm ) on Saturday week. Creedon was in Castlebar last Sunday to run the rule over Galway and he was quoted as saying: "We are there now and we're going to take a bit of beating."
Galway defeated them 1-12 to 0-11 last June in the first round of the qualifiers at Pearse Stadium, but it will take a far superior performance than that to do so again.
Galway’s season depends it.