There's nothing won in February, no disrespect to the FBD league which final is down for decision at the end of the month between these two sides again, but Sunday's game in McHale Park was the first real test of the year. A test that Mayo passed with consumate ease, truth be told. But as John O'Mahony said after the contest “It's two points in the league, but ye won't be asking me about this game at the end of the year.” O'Mahony has been around the block long enough to know that there have been pleanty of false dawns for Mayo football down through the past fifty years and that there are no prises of note handed out in early spring.
But for Mayo the future does look bright as they easily dismantled the challenge of their southern neighbors. Mayo won the midfield battle in the first half so comprehensively they managed to claim at least half a dozen marks under the new rules. Key to Mayo's victory in this section which was their springboard to success in the forward line was the deployment of Seamus O'Shea at centre half forward on the team sheet but operating as third midfielder alongside Tom Parsons and Ronan McGarrity. O'Shea's size and physical attributes gave Mayo the muscle they needed to over power the Galway duo of Joe Bergin and Mark Lydon in the opening quarter. O'Shea and Enda Varley both got the nod to start in the the after coming back into the side last weekend following McGrath Cup action with UL in January, the pair also lined out for the mid western university in the Sigerson Cup in mid week. Varley looked nervous in his first few opening exchanges in Mayo's attack but he pulled over a fine point just before the half hour mark to settle his nerves and went on to show in the second half that the Garrymore man will be a real option for Mayo later on in the year.
Kevin McLoughlin was another who also shined for Mayo over the seventy minutes, he kicked two points late on in the first half to cap a fine performance from the wing back.
The talk before the game was of Galway flying and Mayo laboring through the provincial warm up competition, but that idle chatter was proved to be just that chatter. The Tribesmen did take the lead after a minute when Sean Armstrong picked up a ball in from Paul Conroy before slotting over from close range. Mayo replied quickly through Peadar Gardiner, with one of his trademark points, breaking down the wing on the over lap to receive the ball before looping it over the bar on the run at pace. Mark Ronaldson, who did miss a couple of free's quite badly over the course of the game pushed Mayo into the lead after seven minutes when he popped over a free following a foul on Trevor Mortimer. Andy Moran who worked extremely hard all day scored a fine point for Mayo's third when great effort from out on the left. A Michael Martin free cut the gap to the minimum after 12 minutes, but Mayo were just about to cut loose at this stage. Ronan McGarrity pointed from out the country, then Andy Moran drifted a beauty of a score over the bar from the right hand side, getting the ball to fade over the bar perfectly with an effort off the outside of his boot from the right hand side. Ronaldson tacked on another free to put Mayo four clear. Inside the next ten minutes Mayo added on four more minors to rack up ten points on the board before the half hour mark McLoughlin, Parsons, Vaughan and Varley all got in on the act before Nicky Joyce finally replied for the marron and white men, which was closely followed by a fine effort from Sean Armstrong. McLoughlin and Joyce swapped points in the final minute of the half to leave Mayo 0-11 to 0-5 up at the break.
Mayo would have been mindful of last years meeting in the league between these sides, where they went in six points behind at half time and managed to sneak out of Tuam with a win thanks to a fine second half display. So they came straight back out after the break and landed the first two scores to extend the lead through a brace of Ronaldson frees. Michael Martin did reply for Galway through a free of his own but the game was about to be put beyond doubt thanks to a brace of goals inside two minutes. The first was a pure route one but with a touch of class, Donal Vaughan drove the ball down the middle of the field goal wards, Enda Varley broke to claim the ball into his chest, he then beat two men with ease before slotting the ball past Paul Doherty. The Garrymore man had a major hand in Mayo's second goal, he cut in down the right hand end line, played a quick one two with Mark Ronaldson before he slipped the ball to Trevor Mortimer who had the easy task of finishing the ball to the back of Galway net, putting Mayo 13 points clear after 46 minutes. That was game set and match at that stage, Mayo added on another score before the end through Aidan O'Shea who had a very quite game and found Finian Hanly more than a match for him over the afternoon. Galway did pull back a goal through the ever dangerous Michael Meehan who added a little something extra to the Galway attack when he was introduced at the break.
But the real talking point for Mayo supporters will be the dismissal of Trevor Mortimer after 47 minutes, this writer didn't see the incident which lead to his dismissal, so can't comment. But John O'Mahony did say after the game he felt it was harsh and Mayo will be looking back at the video of the game to see it again and may appeal the dismissal of his the teams captain.
A good win and a good performance, but there is nothing won in February or remembered come the end of September when the real prize is handed out.
Mayo: D Clarke; D Vaughan (0-1 ), G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Gardiner (0-1 ), T Howley, K McLoughlin (0-2 ); T Parsons (0-1 ), R McGarrity (0-1 ); A Moran (0-2 ), S O'Shea, T Mortimer (1-0 ); E Varley (1-1 ), A O'Shea (0-1 ), M Ronaldson (0-4, 4f ). Subs: A Freeman for S O'Shea (50 mins )
Galway: P Doherty; G Bradshaw, D O'Neill; D Meehan, G O'Donnell, N Coyne; J Bergin, M Lydon; P Kennedy, P Conroy, N Colman; S Armstrong (0-2 ), N Joyce (0-3, 2f ), M Martin (0-2, 2f ). Subs: T Fahy for Coyne (18 mins ), D Commins for P Kenny (22 mins ), M Meehan (1-4, 3f ) for M Lydon (35 mins ), B Cullinane for M Martin (43 mins )
Ref: Marty Duffy (Sligo )