Connacht final place booked with second half performance
Connacht Senior Football Championship
Freeman's finish: Alan Freeman celebrates his goal against Galway. Photo:Sportsfile
By Colm Gannon, Mchale Park
Once Alan Freeman lashed the ball to the back of Adrian Faherty's net 22 minutes into the second half in a rain soaked McHale Park there was never any doubt that Mayo would be making the trip to Hyde Park to take on the defending Connacht champions next month. This was no classic, it's not a game that will live long in the memory of any Mayo GAA supporter, but following on from the London debacle last month a win over the 'auld enemy is something that Mayo supporters gladly went home with. Mayo by no means hit the high notes in this contest and their six point victory owes as much to the paucity of the challenge put up by a hapless Galway side who could only muster a solitary point in defiance in the second 35 minutes of play, as it did to Mayo's performance.
The conditions didn't help the contest, a stiff breeze blew from the Albany end towards the old Bacon Factory end as a steady drizzle of rain soaked those in the 19,375 attendance who weren't sheltered in the stand.
The first half saw the Tribesmen go in leading by 1-5 to 0-4 at the median whistle with Paul Conroy's goal a minute before the break the real decisive score. That goal didn't reflect the play in the contest up to that juncture with Mayo dominating around the middle and creating numerous scoring chances only to squander over a dozen. They kicked nine wides in the opening half and dropped at least three more short from free kicks and open play. Robert Hennelly kicked two of Mayo's three opening points one from a free and the other from a 45' as Mayo's problem with free taking raised its head once again on the big occasion as the Breaffy keeper made the first of a number of sprits upfield to try and kick a placed ball over for his side.
Mayo's other points came from an audacious effort from Jason Doherty after 13 minutes and a Trevor Mortimer cut four minutes before the break. Cormac Bane was the go to man for Galway in the opening exchanges kicking four points for his side, three from frees in the first half. Galway's other minor came from Padraig Joyce who was kept quite for most of the contest by the Mayo defence. That Mayo full back line in particular had to be keep their cool for a long period of the game after both Tom Cunniffee and Keith Higgins picked up yellow cards in the first half.
At half time none of the paying attendance could have seen Mayo steamrolling Galway in the second half but that's what happened. Alan Dillon cut the gap to three with a point from close range free after a minute. Then Alan Freeman got in on the end of a move started by Alan Dillon and included Andy Moran before the ball got to the Aghamore attacker who blasted his effort towards goal only to see Adrian Faherty make a great fingertip save and divert it over for only a point. Cillian O'Connor making his first senior championship start for Mayo cut a dash for goal on 41 minutes, but his effort went over the bar to put only one between the sides. The contest was brought back to parity ten minutes into the second half when Kevin McLoughlin finished off a move that involved the O'Shea brothers; who put in a solid shift in the middle of the park while they were there. The lead point came on 50 minutes when Andy Moran collected the ball close in after a O'Connor effort for a goal was smothered by the Galway rearguard. That point did stir some bit of life into the Tribesmen and Eoin Concannon had a great chance for a goal only to blow it over the bar. That score leveled the game for the last time and was his sides last and only score in the second half.
Mayo could smell the victory at this stage and Freeman's classy finish for the goal was quickly followed up by an effort from the same player from distance. Ronan McGarrity made an appearance from the bench and lit up the crowd with a fine score from out on the right. It was a carbon copy of the kind of point the Ballina man regularly kicks, tight to the right touch line and half way between the 21 meter and 45 meter line. The icing was put on the cake by another sub Enda Varley who clipped the ball over the bar from close range with the aid of the goalkeepers fingertips at the death.
Job done by Mayo, but a far greater challenge lies in wait when they go to Hyde Park in an attempt to dethrone the Connacht champions on their own patch on July 17. It wasn't pretty but it was a win at the end of the day.
Mayo: R Hennelly (0-2, 1f, 1 45';) T Cunniffe, A Feeney, K Higgins; R Feeney, D Vaughan, T Mortimer (0-1); S O'Shea, A O'Shea; K McLoughlin(0-1), A Dillon (0-1,1f), A Moran (0-1); C O'Connor (0-1), A Freeman (1-2), J Doherty(0-1).Subs: R McGarrity (0-1), P Gardiner, E Varley (0-1)
Galway:A Faherty; A Burke, C Forde, J Duane; G O'Donnell, G Higgins, G Sice; J Bergin, F Hanley; E Concannon (0-1), M Heir, G Bradshaw; P Joyce (0-1), P Conroy, C Bane (0-4,3f). Subs: D Blake, M Meehan, D Cummins,
Ref: R Hickey (Clare)