Padraic Joyce began his tenure as Galway manager with a win on penalties versus the old nemesis Mayo in Castlebar in front of a crowd of some 7,000.
In what was a topsy-turvy game with plenty of action and drama, the Tribesmen came out on top, and Joyce will be delighted to get the win.
Such is the expectation on the former Galway captain to deliver attractive winning football, a loss at any level adds a certain amount of pressure. However, on this occasion he will have been particularly pleased with the character shown by his side to come back from a six-point deficit late into the game to level the match.
The game was marred by two bad injuries to Johnny Heaney and Fiontain O’Curraoin. Both men were victims of serious head injuries. Manager Padraic Joyce confirmed after the game Fiontain O’Curraoin had been taken to Castlebar hospital as he was feeling pain going down his neck from the head, but it was confirmed in the aftermath he had been released from hospital. Meanwhile Joyce reported Heaney was suffering from vomiting and dizzy spells. Both players will miss next Saturday’s final against Roscommon which will take place in Hyde Park at 2pm.
Galway was the faster out of the blocks, racing into a four points to one lead. A point by Jordan Flynn was the solitary Mayo score, which was sandwiched between two points by newly-appointed captain Shane Walsh, and a couple of scores by Paul Conroy and Adrian Varley [On a side note it was brilliant to see both Paul Conroy and Mayo’s Tom Parsons back in action after the horrendous leg and knee injuries which the pair endured respectively].
For the remainder of the half, the Mayomen were dominant, outscoring Galway by eight points to four to enter the break a point ahead in what was an entertaining contest played in good spirit throughout.
Varley’s goal the winner
Galway again began the second half the better of the two sides, scoring the first three points, while Mayo responding with two. And there was nothing between the sides until Cillian McDaid received a black card and was out of the game for 10 minutes. In the resulting period Mayo outscored Galway by 1-02 to a single point, Kevin McLoughlin scoring the goal for the home side. It was a crucial moment in the game which turned the tie in Mayo’s favour.
Galway entered additional time trailing by six points. Joyce’s charges, however, showed great character to claw back the game to a draw and send it to penalties by scoring 1-03 without response.
The catalyst was a brilliantly taken goal by Adrian Varley, who was Galway’s best player on the day. Varley’s tricky movement off the ball and excellent ball-winning, coupled with an ability to take his scores, was a nightmare for Mayo defenders all day. He finished the game with 1-03 from play.
The pivotal levelling score came in the 14th minute of injury time from the right boot of debutant Liam Costello, which meant penalties would decide this contest for the second year running.
Shane Walsh, Damien Comer and decisively Tom Flynn all converted from the spot. Galway goalkeeper Connor Gleeson saved from Fergal Boland and Gary Boylan, while Bryan Walsh hit the woodwork which sees Galway advance to the final this Saturday.