The gift that keeps on giving

When it comes to GAA football matters, Mayo are the gift that just keep on giving. The Mayo for Sam band wagon rolls on again and the helter skelter roller coaster ride we find ourselves on is not ready to grind to a halt just yet after the green and red dug out an impressive one point victory against the old enemy Galway in Salthill last weekend.

Played in glorious sunshine in front of a partisan full house, this game can be best described using the old cliché of “ it was a game of two halves”. As was planned by management after winning the toss, Mayo elected to play into the swirling wind in the first half with the clear intention of containment, not letting Galway build a big lead and then throw on a heavily armoured back up in the second half with the aim of closing the game out.

Things worked out perfectly for the first seven minutes or so as Mayo raced into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead but thereafter for the rest of the half the wheels came off as Galway went on a scoring splurge and hit seven unanswered points in a row to leave Mayo trailing 0-8 to 0-3 at the interval.

Mayo's last score of the half came in the 7th minute. This wasn't in the script, it wasn't part of the plan. The management were hoping the deficit would have been no greater than three. Truth be told it should have been more than five but for some wayward shooting from some Galway players, particularly Shane Walsh.

The most worrying aspect from a Mayo perspective was Mayo's inability to gather possession from their own kick outs. Mayo were all over the place in that regard, Colm Reape's radar was not in Sync and his kicks were not reaching their designated targets, two of which went straight over the sideline.

Mayo's poor return of only winning four of their own 13 first half restarts was alarming but thankfully Galway didn't fully capitalise. With such dominance the gap should have been greater than five. Conor Loftus, Mattie Ruane and James Carr were dropped to the substitutes bench from the team that was named while Padraic O'Hora was another absentee as he was at home nursing a bug. In came Eoghan McLaughlin, Jason Doherty, Kevin McLoughlin and Tommy Conroy from the start.

Doherty was selected to drop deep although he did find himself isolated one on one with Damien Comer on two occasions in that first half. Not the place you want to be if you spent your whole career as a forward. It is encouraging that the management were brave enough to make big calls as the three lads dropped out of the team have been struggling for form. That dejection will hopefully provoke a response from them.

Enda Hession replaced Doherty at half time to inject much needed pace to the cause as Mayo came out of the blocks flying. They found themselves level in the 43rd minute after an inspirational goal from Full back David McBrien who ran through the heart of the Galway rearguard before hammering the ball to the Galway net after an intricate give and go with Aidan O'Shea.

Cillian O'Connor made a much needed return to a Mayo jersey when he was introduced and had an instant impact when he put Mayo in the lead during that hectic spell. Mayo all of a sudden had Galway chasing shadows. Paddy Durcan led by example scoring two delightful points while action man Diarmuid O'Connor was having such a huge contribution carrying the ball and tracking runners to great effect.

Colm Reape redeemed himself with a foot save from Mattie Tierney in the 47th minute, a save very similar to one he pulled off in Croke Park in the league final from John Maher. There was still time for more drama at the bitter end as Galway conjured two goal chances from high balls into the small square that were cleared off the line, the first from Colm Reape and the second from Eoghan McLaughlin as Reape misjudged the flight of the ball after Cillian McDaid palmed the ball goalwards.

It was heart in mouth stuff until the bitter end, it's probably just a shame both teams put themselves in the predicament they were in because of poor performances in their final group games of the All-Ireland series.

It's an unwanted stat that Galway are the only Provincial winners not participating in this weekend's quarter finals as Kevin McStay's team were given another nightmare draw against hot favourites Dublin this Sunday at 4pm. Again we live in the hope that Mayo will rise to the occasion as they have done so many times in the past. Dublin are known to bring out the best in the Mayo players.

Things will need to be spot on from the get go. Every player will need to be at their very best, patience is key against the Dubs to try to upset their rhythm. From what I've been told Mayo have no injury worries going into Sunday's mouth-watering encounter with the Dubs and that’s always a healthy sign. One thing is for sure, if Mayo are going to win Sam, they are going to do it the hard way.


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