Galway will need to produce a top performance to beat Mayo

 Damien Comer of Galway Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Damien Comer of Galway Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

The mood in Galway city and county among the GAA fraternity this week is one of giddiness and anticipation as people look forward to the Galway and Mayo Connacht championship semi-final clash next Sunday in Pearse Stadium (4pm ).

The football is unlikely to be too free-flowing and both sides are well able to flood plenty of bodies behind the ball to get what they want.

The reality is that there is an awful lot at stake for both sides this weekend, as a win for either outfit could be a major catalyst for a successful championship season.

The winners on Sunday will face either Roscommon or Leitrim in a Connacht final on July 9 and both squads would fancy their chances of progressing directly to the last eight of the championship if they found themselves in that scenario.

There is some recent championship history between the sides too, as Mayo were stopped from attempting what would have been a potentially historic six-in-a-row of provincial titles last season in McHale Park by a sweet Galway win - inspired by Tom Flynn's well taken goal in the second half.

Due to that hard fought maroon victory 12 months ago - there is no doubt but that Stephen Rochford's panel will be coming up the N17 from Claremorris or up the Curragh line from Ballinrobe early next Sunday morning intent on reversing that result.

There is absolutely no way that the Mayo players will want to be dumped out of the Connacht championship by their old rivals two years in succession. Expect them to be well revved up for the fray and to come out from under the Pearse Stadium Stand full of controlled aggression and intent.

They will be hard beaten.

Calling a winner is not easy, although the bookies have justifiably installed last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists against Dublin after a replay as 4/7 favourites, with Kevin Walsh's men who were beaten in the All-Ireland quarter-final by Tipperary available at 15/8.

The genuine possibility of a draw is at 8/1.

What is interesting too is that the money men are only giving a two point spread which ties in with most people's view, that there will not be much between the sides.

Progress is being made by Galway

Galway have a bit of momentum behind them from winning the Connacht championship last season, their Division Two league win over Kildare this spring, and promotion to Division One for 2018.

There has been significant progress made over the past three years and Kevin Walsh and his management team are putting in a colossal effort to try to make Galway as competitive and successful as possible.

The progression of the likes of young Michael Daly into the senior ranks this year is a real bonus. While the Mountbellew/Moylough man did not get going in the All-Ireland U-21 final against Dublin - at full tilt he is a very dynamic footballer and can be a game changer when he is in the zone.

It will be very interesting to see what impact he has on proceedings in three days time.

Based on championship form over the past few seasons it is difficult not to come down on the side of a Mayo win.

After all, they have been in the All-Ireland final in three of the last five championships and were beaten in the All-Ireland semi-finals in the other two years, after replays - by Kerry after extra time in the replay in Limerick in 2014 and Dublin in 2015.

This group of Mayo players have been tremendously consistent and every team that has beaten them in the championship since 2012 have been crowned All-Ireland champions.

Galway have options up front

However, that said, if Galway can stop Mayo getting into a flow of fluid football, nullify the Mayo full-forward line and don't give away too many scorable frees and produce some form of their own, then they can sneak a win.

The Galway forwards have a nice combination of pace and power and if they can get one on one with their direct opponents then Damien Comer at full-forward, Eamon Brannigan, Michael Daly, and Shane Walsh can do damage.

The Galway management team have lots of options up front too when you consider names like Gary Sice, Seán Armstrong, Danny Cummins, Micheál Lundy, and free-taker Barry McHugh.

Is it a pipe dream, or is there a few minutes of championship action in Michael Meehan?

Johnny Heaney is a live option at either wing-forward or wing-back and his running power is especially important as Galway play with a lot of bodies behind the ball, and need genuine pace and stamina to get it forward quickly when they turn over possession.

At the time of going to print the Galway team had not been announced and it will be interesting to see who is selected in the full-back line.

It has been an area of concern at stages during the league and if men like Declan Kyne and Cathal Sweeney are selected in there, they will need plenty of rear-guard support from their half-back line colleagues to quell the threat from Cillian O' Connor, Andy Moran, or Aiden O' Shea who are all dangerous adversaries when they are in around the edge of the square.

Many people are going for a Mayo win on Sunday which is understandable.

However, if Galway can produce a top class defensive performance - with plenty of bodies clogging up things at the back and nullify Mayo's scoring options from their impressive half-back line of Boyle, Keegan, and Durcan, then Galway have the forwards to hit a winning tally.

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