Galway will take on Mayo in this year’s Connacht Senior Football Championship final on Sunday in Pearse Stadium, Salthill (1.30pm ) with a place in the All-Ireland semi-final at stake.
It is Mayo’s first appearance in a Connacht final in five years.
There will be no back door for the losers in this year’s modified championship which adds extra spice to what is always a tasty affair. The Tribesmen have some extra motivation to beat their nemesis following the embarrassing fifteen point defeat they suffered at Mayo’s hands in Tuam Stadium last month.
Both players and management will be keen to get their revenge on a Mayo team that was so impressive last weekend in the Connacht semi-final, dispatching Roscommon with ease.
There were a number of personnel in top form for Mayo, in particular Cillian O’Connor, whose tally equated to nine points at the final whistle. The Ballintubber man appeared sharp and back to top form following a few seasons with niggly injuries which seemed to prevent him hitting top form.
Kevin McLaughlin also returned to the starting line-up for Mayo and was a calming presence for them as he roamed all over the pitch as he has done so well for them throughout the past decade. Aidan O’Shea was deployed predominantly in and around the square where he caused untold damage to the Galway full back line during October’s league game.
It is certainly an area which Padraic Joyce will need to have well set up if they are to avoid a similar result. Wing-back Eoin McLaughlin from Westport has also been in magnificent form with his marauding runs being a feature of his game and he will need to be closely monitored.
Galway will be coming into the game after receiving a bye for the semi-final from Sligo, who were unable to field due to an outbreak of Covid in the camp.
While Galway are without the usual match preparation compared to Mayo's two games, Galway manager Padraic Joyce does not believe it will be a disadvantage for his side.
"It is what it is. In a normal championship, you have a two to three week break anyway. The last two games have been a good challenge for us. You’re fresh if you win, you’re not if you lose.
"They've got plenty of games, so I wouldn’t say that’s an advantage or disadvantage; it’s all on the day."
Galway have been unfortunate with injuries since returning to training in September. Joyce confirmed that Damien Comer will definitely be missing for Sunday. This is in addition to John Daly and Dylan Wall.
However, there are also doubts over the fitness of Shane Walsh, Ronan Steede, Johnny Duane and Ian Burke, who are crucial players for Galway if they are to get over the line on Sunday.
Joyce also has a key decision to make for the goalkeeping position. He stuck with Dunmore clubman Connor Gleeson for most of the league, but following the Mayo game, he opted for Bernard Power between the sticks against Dublin. Amazingly that was Power’s league debut for Galway in what is his fifth season. Power’s kickouts were a key aspect of Galway’s game for the visit of the Dubs, and it will be interesting to see if he retains his spot.
This weekend’s game will be played behind closed doors, but it is not something that worries Joyce.
“It’s unfortunate people can’t go to the game. All we can do is manage what’s in front of us. People all over the world will be tuning into this game on Sunday. It’s unfortunate that both sets of supporters can’t attend.”
There will no doubt be many sets of eyes fixed to the television this Sunday to tune in to watch this famous fixture as Galway and Mayo contest for the JJ Nestor Cup.