New ground will be made on Saturday in the long rivalry between Galway and Mayo. For the first time Galway and Mayo will meet outside of Connacht when they run onto the LIT Gaelic Grounds on Saturday (7pm ) for this crunch championship fixture.
It will also be the first time the two neighbours have played each other in a knock-out championship match since 1999.
With the do-or-die factor finally back in a Galway v Mayo championship match, there is sure to be extra niggle and bite that has sometimes been missing in these fixtures over the last number of years.
While Galway are ready to welcome back captain Damien Comer to the fold, Cillian O’Connor returned for Mayo in their win over Armagh last weekend, and both sides' marquee forwards will be hoping to see some action.
Both will take time to embed themselves into the level needed for championship football. O’Connor’s introduction last weekend will have done him the world of good. Comer may be that bit further behind, but he did play 15 minutes for his club against Tuam two weeks ago.
What is a huge boost for Galway was the return of Sean Kelly for 20 minutes against Roscommon in the Connacht final. He is one of the key link men for Galway from defence to attack. With Mayo expected to be without Lee Keegan, Shane Walsh will find himself with a new man marker having had Keegan for company for the last number of years whenever these teams have clashed.
Kevin Walsh will have a dilemma on his hands for the goalkeeper position with Bernard Power previously demonstrating his capabilities in big games for club and county. On the other hand, there is Ruairi Lavelle who has proven that he is more than able for the big occasion with some fine performances for Galway when needed. Apart from two kickouts in the Connacht final Lavelle didn’t put a foot wrong.
After a disappointing performance from Galway’s full forward line in the first half of the Connacht final surely there must be some sort of a shake up in the forward line. Martin Farragher certainly put his name in the hat with 3-04 from play in Corofin’s recent championship win over St James. Paul Conroy also played the full 60 minutes in that match. With injuries to Ciaran Duggan and Fiontain O’Currain in midfield it could be the tie for him to make his return.
For Galway to win this game the players must play with more confidence in themselves. Accurate ball into dangerous full forward line with Walsh, Daly, Heaney, Kelly and Silke all making runs in is a must. Galway have more than enough quality players to play either a direct game or a running game.
It goes without saying that there will certainly be fireworks in this match. Both teams will have had high hopes of at least reaching the Super 8s and more in this year's championship. No player on either side will be willing to give up an inch. It is sure to be a gripping encounter between the two old western rivals.