It was a disappointed Padraic Joyce who faced the media after Galway were unable to generate any second half scores from play in their Connacht Final capitulation at Croke Park this afternoon.
With his team five ahead at the break, Galway seemed set to build on a strong first half showing, but it was the reigning champions who showed they were in no mood to hand over their crown.
So for Galway, a season that began with disappointment in Tralee before relegation to Division Two, has ended with a second half capitulation in front of thousands of fans at headquarters and leaves the management and squad with plenty to reflect on in the coming months.
Joyce felt that it was the game management that let them down as a resurgent Mayo powered their way to a win which could have been much more comprehensive. During the game, Galway went 27 minutes without a score and Matthew Tierney’s three pointed frees were their only return in the second half.
“The instruction at half-time, we were five points up and probably not playing overly, overly well, probably at 30 or 40 per cent of what we could do,” said Joyce.
“We said at half-time we were five points up, to go manage the game, that is what you try to do. Of course we gave away the penalty straightaway and then their runners from deep from the half back line killed us.
“That is something we spoke about, that is Mayo's strength, we stopped it in the first half, but for some reason we went away from it in the second half.
“Overall I have to say I'm proud of the lads for what they have done, they kept battling until the end, they kept going, but it is disappointing to lose it the way we did.”
Joyce acknowledged that Mayo were worthy winners at Croke Park.
“We are bitterly disappointed, it is hard to put your finger on it when we were in a great position at half-time - five points up and ended up losing the game by six points in the end, it could have been a lot more.
“It is very disappointing, hard to put your finger on in the second half where it went wrong for us,” he said.
In the other camp, Mayo will also have some thinking to do, despite their comeback, as they fell well behind in the first half following the concession of two goals to Walsh and Comer.
“There wasn't any panic at half-time,” Mayo manager James Horan told reporters afterwards.
“We had a lot of possession in the first half, we just wasted a lot of it, particularly up front - final pass and some of the shots and options we took we put ourselves under pressure,” Horan added.
Goals from Shane Walsh and Damien Comer put Galway into a commanding position, but Horan still believed in his team.
“They got a goal off the post where we were slack, we were asleep for the rebound,” he remarked. “The second goal too we had Shane covered, but if you give him a bit of space, he is gone.
“It was a poor goal to giveaway, but we knew we weren't a million miles off at half-time, we sat down, went through a few things and made a few changes.”
Kevin McLoughlin and Eoghan McLaughlin both made important contributions as substitutes, while Aidan O’Shea’s power caused Galway bother after the restart.
What areas did Horan feel Mayo needed to improve on after the opening period?
“We were about 52 per cent from attacks, you aren't going to do anything,” Horan replied. “We were giving away the ball and giving away momentum to Galway when we should be taking shots - some shots didn't even go dead or whatever.
“That was giving them a lot of fuel, but I think Aidan going inside at the start of the second half pulled two of them. Kevin McLoughlin and Eoghan made a huge difference - Kevin's experience and knowledge, and Eoghan's running power.”
The depth of the Mayo panel is something which offers significant optimism according to Horan. “The subs we brought on too throughout the game made a big impact at various stages,” he commented.
“We got a good start at the start of the second half that was good. We know we are strong, that we are strong runners, it is a key strength of ours. The longer the game went on, if we kept doing the right things, we knew we would get stronger and stronger. We are delighted.”
He said that they will take a few days off this week and then start preparing for the semi-final against the Leinster champions in three weeks time.
For Galway, it’s back to the drawing board to reflect on a turbulent twelve month period in which the only team they have defeated is Roscommon. The result is disappointing too for the thousands of fans who travelled east for the game and who were so full of hope after a powerful first half performance.
Scorers for Mayo: Ryan O'Donoghue 1-3 (1-0 pen, 2fs ), Mattie Ruane 1-2, Tommy Conroy and Conor Loftus 0-2 each, Kevin McLoughlin, James Carr, Paddy Durcan, Darren McHale and Robert Hennelly (45 ) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: Shane Walsh 1-1, Matthew Tierney 0-4 (3fs ), Damien Comer 1-0, Paul Conroy 0-2, Cathal Sweeney 0-1.
MAYO: Robert Hennelly; Lee Keegan, Padraig O'Hora, Michael Plunkett; Paddy Durcan, Oisín Mullin, Stephen Coen; Mattie Ruane, Conor Loftus; Bryan Walsh, Aidan O'Shea, Diarmuid O'Connor; Tommy Conroy, Darren McHale, Ryan O'Donoghue.
Subs: Eoghan McLaughlin for McHale (HT ), Kevin McLoughlin for Walsh (HT ), Jordan Flynn for Loftus (45-51 ), Rory Brickenden for O'Hora (57 ), James Carr for A O'Shea (68 ), Conor O'Shea for O'Connor (70+5 )
GALWAY: Connor Gleeson; Seán Kelly, Seán Ó Maolchiaráin, Liam Silke; Kieran Molloy, Dylan McHugh, Johnny Heaney; Paul Conroy, Matthew Tierney; Damien Comer, Peter Cooke, Cathal Sweeney; Rob Finnerty, Shane Walsh, Paul Kelly.
Subs: Finnian Ó Laoi for Finnerty (17 ), Jack Glynn for S Kelly (26 ), Michael Farragher for Sweeney (51 ), Eamonn Brannigan for P Kelly (56 ), Johnny Duane for Walsh (70+2 ).