Galway prevail over fancied Mayo by a point

Connacht GAA Senior Football Championship quarter-final

Padraic Joyce managed Galway to a championship victory over Mayo for the first time on Sunday with a superb 1-14 to 0-16 victory in over their arch rivals in Castlebar.

Mayo have had the upper hand on Galway over the past three seasons with successive victories in the Gaelic Grounds, Pearse Stadium and Croke Park. And again on Sunday, there were not many tipping Galway to get one over their old nemesis - some bookmakers having offered odds as long as 3/1 for Galway victory.

However, Mayo were hindered from the start. Key players such as Paddy Durcan, Jordan Flynn and Rob Hennelly were injured for this big clash, and the game could not have begun much better for the Tribesmen.

Paul Conroy won the throw in and delivered early to the talismanic Shane Walsh. The Kilkerrin-Clonberne man weaved his way into space and duly tapped the ball over the bar to give Galway an early lead.

Cillian O’Connor marked his return to the starting line-up for Mayo by slotting over his first placed ball in response before Galway then hit a purple patch, which put them in the ascendancy, scoring 1-2 without reply. First Robert Finnerty showed good sharpness inside to raise a white flag, while championship debutant Niall Daly split the posts with a peach of a left-footed strike.

The goal was scored by Johnny Heaney who kept his composure on the receiving end of a Damien Comer hand pass to slot home past Rory Byrne.

Mayo, as they so often do, worked their way back into the game through a Ryan O’Donoghue mark and two more Cillian O’Connor frees before a crucial moment came in the 20th minute when Finnian O’Laoi was dismissed for a black card offence, having made contact with Cillian O’Connor. In this period Mayo was the better team ,and made further inroads into the Galway lead with the game level 1-05 to 0-08 by the time O’Laoi returned to the field.

Ryan O’Donoghue was a constant menace during this period as he led the Mayo attack, while Paul Conroy and James Carr traded scores before the interval as the sides entered the break tied at 1-06 to 0-09.

It appeared the momentum was in Mayo’s favour for the second half, but Galway showed all their character to halt the Mayo forward line which seemed lacking in ideas.

It was clear from the outset Galway were setting up with two designated sweepers in defence, and Mayo did not have the answers, which was most evident during the second half.

Damien Comer and Paul Conroy really stood up for Galway in the second half through their scores and work rate around the middle. Shane Walsh also kicked three spectacular placed balls in a row from the ’45 metre line, which gave Galway a firm advantage as Mayo chased the game.

The Galway subs made an impact as well, in particular Patrick Kelly who came on at half-time and made some telling contributions.

Cillian McDaid was also sprung from the bench, and his first action was to kick the ball over the bar at a pivotal stage in the game.

Mayo, trailing by six points in the 67th minute, displayed exactly what they have done throughout the years, serious guts to claw the game back to within one point in the final minute of the game.

They had their chance to equalise, but in a game when they hit 12 wides, Aidan Orme spurned his shot from the left wing, and it was Galway, well worth their win, who now go on to face Leitrim in a Connacht semi-final in two weeks' time.


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