Galway should raise the stakes for Mayo on Sunday

After the national football league game in James Stephens Park in Ballina last Sunday where Mayo and Dublin had just drawn in a dull, tedious, error-ridden pile of manure I got chatting to a few local Maors and Ballina club men.

They were in feisty form and not too impressed with what they had just seen.

No one was. To be honest, neither side looked like they would be within an ass’s roar of being involved in the latter stages of this year’s All-Ireland series.

They looked like two poor sides and if Jack O’Connor saw the highlights package or the DVD of the game he would not be chastised for saying, “We would beat the best fifteen men from both sides.”

Anyway, I was happy to be heading home and had no nets to take down or flags to collect, so the form was a tad better on my side of the fence.

We got slagging.

Good natured auld Galway and Mayo banter, and I told them we’d have a few good steaks done for them this Sunday before the game. Or after, if they preferred.

One well-built man who seemed to have taken a bit of pain at the hands of Galway men down through the years, turned to me and scornfully replied; “The only thing we ever got of ye in Tuam was soft chat. Feck-all-else. And the only steak ye’d give us up there - is a stake in the heart.”

I mentioned how we’d given them a bloody soft Connacht championship in 1999, for all the good it did them, and rapidly retreated to Foxford while things were still cordial and civil.

The encounter reminded me that while Mayo and Galway men might work cheek to jowl or barter with each other all week, when there is an important, or maybe even a not so important football match between the counties, close ties are put on hold for a day or two.

This Sunday will be no different.

Mayo badly need the points to drag themselves away from any fear of relegation. They face Tyrone in round seven and if other results went against both John O’Mahony and Mickey Harte they could easily find themselves in that last round with the loser going down.

Westmeath already look doomed as they have no points on the board and they face Donegal and Dublin in their final two games.

Therefore O’Mahony will try to have his charges locked-on and fully focused for the short jaunt up to Tuam stadium.

Mayo showed good work-rate and conviction to battle back from being five points down against Dublin at one stage the last day. However they were massively over-dependent on Ballintubber’s Alan Dillon (0-5, 3fs ) for any inspiration up front.

Austin O’Malley had a poor day at full-forward. The Louisburgh man hit a horrific wide in the second half and was subsequently hauled off, while neither Conor nor Trevor Mortimer could muster a single score from play, and both men were very fortunate to finish the full 70 minutes.

There was a real lack of direction in the full-forward line until big Aodhan O’Shea, a Leaving Cert student at St. Geralds’s college in Castelbar ambled on and took up his position on the edge of the square. He is some talent and a huge man for a young fellow just out of minor ranks. The question should be asked though; whether it is fair to ask him to be pulling on a county senior jersey in league action eight or nine weeks before his Leaving Cert.

The Mayo u21s players will probably be available for this game as the Connacht final against Sligo is not fixed until Saturday April the fourth, and those youngsters would provide options for the Mayo management team.

Liam Sammon is unlikely to make many changes to a side that is unbeaten in five league outings and showing good form up front, although he will be delighted to have Moycullen’s Gareth Bradshaw back after exams.

If Joe Bergin and Barry Cullinane are again selected at eight and nine, they will probably be pitted against Pat Harte and Ronan McGarrity unless Tom Parsons is back from injury and if they break even, then you’d fancy Michael Meehan to rack up another good innings.

He is sparkling with confidence and is now just as important to Galway’s challenge for major silverware as Steven Gerard is to Liverpool’s. Both men are at the top of their respective codes, with the main difference between them being that Meehan doesn’t get 150k a week for his efforts.

Mayo are never ever easy to beat in Tuam and their backs are to the wall in this one. The mood in the county is dark and dangerous, and there are lots of mutterings about discontentment in the camp and beyond.

However, even if that is true, the sight of a maroon jersey will unify their hearts and minds for sixty minutes and a victory on Sunday would be a great fillip for morale inside and outside the camp.

The spike of Galway’s team is much more settled though and you’d take Meehan and Joyce to show their class once again, and point Galway to victory.

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