There is much at stake for Sunday’s protagonists Galway and Mayo who clash in Pearse Stadium (2pm ) in round six of the Allianz Football League.
A win for Galway will see them almost guaranteed a league final berth, should results in other games go in their favour. Meanwhile, Mayo’s division one status hangs in the balance following a worrying run of form which sees them with only three points from their opening five fixtures.
A loss for Mayo would see them relegated as their head-to-head with nearest to them in the table, Monaghan, is inferior. There is no doubt this is a massive carrot for them - relegation can often send a team back years. As a result Galway should be taking every opportunity to assert their dominance over their neighbours.
Joyce’s Galway side was somewhat unconvincing last time out in Pairc Tailteann against basement side Meath. Perhaps they underestimated the challenge of Andy McEntee’s side, but the first-half performance was unacceptable, and it is something Padraic Joyce and co will be keen to correct for this Sunday’s game.
There were however, some bright spots to pick from the Meath game. The introduction of Paul Conroy before the break swung the game in Galway’s favour as the St James’ man produced a brilliant individual performance which got his team over the line.
Players and management will be hoping he continues this form, particularly following the awful leg injury he suffered two years ago. In Shane Walsh, Galway have the best player in the country currently, and a forward who will strike fear into the Mayo defenders. Again it was Walsh who provided leadership in his running with the ball and scoring points at crucial moments to drag his team to two points in Navan almost a fortnight ago.
Despite sitting top of the division one table, the management have still been able to introduce new players in the effort of building a big competitive squad, which of course has been the platform for the standard setters Dublin over the past five years. There have been a host of new players given game time so far this campaign, particularly of last year’s u20s with six of them in total getting minutes under their belt.
Galway have one injury concern going into the game with Corofin’s Liam Silke picking up a hamstring injury late into the Meath game. It is unknown yet if he will feature at any stage at the weekend.
It is worrying times for Mayo who do not appear to have settled on a first 15 of any sort. It will be interesting to see if Mayo manager James Horan will go with the old tried and trusted who have gone to battle for him on so many occasions, or if he will put his faith in youth.
It was the younger players of his squad who almost scraped a draw against Kerry in Castlebar a fortnight ago. The introduction of three players at half-time totally changed Mayo’s fortunes. Tommy Conroy, Paul Towey and Eoin McLaughlin have put their hand up for selection for this weekend’s fixture following their performances against Kerry.
It is set up to be an enthralling and feisty fixture. Should Galway prevail, it will be a tough year ahead for the Green and Red.