Mayo next up for Galway footballers in Pearse Stadium

Kevin Walsh's Galway, in division one for the first time since 2011, have made a tremendous start to their league campaign with two consecutive wins over Ulster opposition.

Defeating Donegal last weekend by a point, having seen off Mickey Harte's Tyrone at Tuam Stadium, is a real fillip for the panel and sees them top of the table on four points alongside three-in-a -row All-Ireland champions Dublin and Kerry.

This Sunday, at Pearse Stadium (2pm ) 2017 All-Ireland finalists Mayo are in town for round three of what is an extremely competitive division.

Another two points in three days would put them in a really strong position to avoid any risk of a relegation battle over the coming few weeks, and instead could have them challenging for a top four finish. The margins in division one are that tight.

Galway still have Kerry away (round four Feb 25 ) and high flying Dublin at home (round six March 18 ), and they will be really targeting a result on Sunday against a team they have beaten in the last two championship games.

Those two wins in 2017 and 2016 really turned the tables on recent championship history as Mayo had beaten Galway in five successive championship games from 2011-2015.

Galway and Mayo will also face off in the Connacht quarter final at McHale Park on Sunday May 13, so there are plenty of sub plots to Sunday's encounter.

Stephen Rochford's side has two points on the board after beating Monaghan by a point, 0-13 to 0-by a disappointing 1-15 to 2-9.

They are still without some of their best defensive players, such as Lee Keegan (injured ) and Keith Higgins, who is being rested, while regular midfielders Tom Parsons and Seamus O'Shea are also not yet available.

Established stars Colm Boyle, Cillian O'Connor and Andy Moran were all introduced in the second half last weekend, and it will be interesting to see if Rochford feels he needs to start that trio this weekend to try to get two points on the board and up the psychological ante for the championship clash were they to win.

Momentum

Regardless of whether they start for Mayo or not, the Galway players will fancy themselves to continue their winning ways.

They have a good bit of momentum after last weekend's success in Letterkenny, and they have the best defensive record in the top two divisions with only 0-22 conceded.

What was impressive last weekend was that after Donegal went from a two-point half-time deficit to lead by a point, 0-12 to 1-08 after 42 minutes, Galway remained cool and calm, stuck to their system, and were able to come from behind to win the game.

As with the Tyrone win, Galway's crucial score was an early goal, and this time it was the impressive Eamonn Brannigan who struck home beautifully on 15 minutes, having been set up by roving corner back Declan Kyne.

Shane Walsh was impressive, notching six points, three in each half, and they all came at important times. Team captain Damien Comer also worked hard for the full 70 minutes and hit 0-3, as well as almost goaling with a strong close-range punch that was well saved by the Donegal goalkeeper.

A draw looked the likely result until Galway substitute Sean Armstrong hit a beautiful point to take the honours in the 69th minute. Galway then set up their defensive shield and survived more than four minutes of a Donegal onslaught to deserve a hugely important away victory.

Team manager Kevin Walsh was understandably pleased with his players' work-rate and application.

“We could have left the fingernails a bit longer if we had taken a few chances earlier in the game. I feel we left a few scores behind us, but the work rate the lads put in compensated for not taking as many chances.

"We know where we have to improve and where we are getting better. We are aware we are playing catch up and it is really important we are competitive regardless of the result.

“Everybody worked really hard. It was a real team effort. There was leadership from some of our players and they really stepped up. We can improve going forward and we will hope to learn from every game we play."

No doubt there will be plenty of "learnings" from next Sunday too, and hopefully Galway can make it three out of three.

Galway: R Lavelle, D Kyne, S Ó Ceallaigh, E Kerin, C Sweeney, G Bradshaw, J Heaney (0-1 ); P Conroy (0-1 ), P Cooke, S Kelly, S Walsh (0-6, 4 frees ), E Brannigan (1-0 ); P Sweeney, D Comer - Cpt, (0-3 ), A Varley.

Subs used: P Cunningham for Varley (50 ), T Flynn and G O’Donnell for C Sweeney and P Sweeney (60 ), S Armstrong (0-1 ) for Cooke (63 ), J Duane for Ó Ceallaigh (65 ).

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