I was in McHale Park to see Mayo disembowel Roscommon at their ease and I was in Markievicz Park to see Galway stumble luckily to a narrow 1-13 to 0-12 victory over Sligo. Based on the respective performances from both panels and managements, there will only be one result in Pearse Stadium in just over two weeks’ time. And that is a Mayo victory.
Management must improve
It is not only some of the players, but Liam Sammon and his management team who must pick up their performance a great deal if they are going to win anything this year. OK ye boys in the backseats, be happy with the FBD if ye want.
Tactically Galway were at sea on occasions last Sunday and it could have cost them the game.
I will provide some evidence with three or four key examples.
Firstly, it was tremendous to see Sean Armstrong back to something close to his best and he was on fire in the first 20 minutes. He was destroying Sligo’s Neil Ewing at corner forward.
However, and in a bizarre move, after he had shot his three points from top of the left - one after a superb left-footed pass from Damien Burke - he was switched with Joe Bergin who was grafting well out the field.
So out goes Armstrong, and Bergin goes into the corner. Explain that one to me?
If you have a forward who is making hay, leave him there and feed him lots of ball. Don’t take him out of the position. It made no sense whatsoever.
Likewise Galway did not utilise Michael Meehan effectively last Sunday and he only kicked two points from play and seemed subdued for long periods of the contest.
Michael needs to be on the edge of the square or roving around in the scoring zone. He proved last year against Kerry what he can do if close to goal and getting a good supply. Instead he was wandering out to wing-forward, in the corner, centre-forward, and drifting from pillar to post. He is a proven score getter, our best. And he must be kept near to goals. The further he drifts or is told to drift out, the less effective he is.
Galway seem to have adopted a kind of “rotation” policy that Dublin engaged in over the past few seasons. It was rubbish then and it is rubbish now. Play your forwards in their best positions.
At the back, Niall Coyne suffered another 75 minutes of agony where he was given the run around by David Kelly and subsequently Stephen Coen.
You cannot blame him for that. While Coyne may offer something in the half-back line, he does not have the real pace for corner back.
It seemed bizarre that no change was made there and surely Alan Burke’s - remember him? - blistering pace would have been an ideal match for Kelly.
Speaking of substitutions, the decision to bring on Joe Joe Greaney for the injured Matthew Clancy raised a lot of eyebrows and to take him off again just 20 minutes later will have been a blow to his confidence.
The management team had used two substitute slips at that juncture for the benefit of one. Niall Coleman, it must be said, did make a positive contribution when he came on at half-time.
A reasonable question to ask is, was Greaney the correct choice as first sub on for the forwards?
Finally on the negative list is the continuing ineptitude of our midfield partnerships. Garry O’Donnell was having a poor game there, and that was copperfastened by his silly reaction to being held down by Johnny Davey.
With Ewing having just been red-carded for Sligo, it was brainless to get involved in any way at that stage. Referees always like to balance the books in that department.
The midfield combo selected by management will be vital against Mayo as Ronan McGarrity and either David Heaney or Tom Parsons are a solid combination.
There will have to be some hard questions and some correct answers provided at county training in the next forth-night if the JJ Nestor Cup is to stay this side of Headford and Milltown for the next year.
Positives for Galway
The main positive is that we won the game and got a good fright along the way. However it is crucial now the management learn from their lesson.
On the playing front, Finian Hanley had a powerful game at full-back and was master of all he surveyed. He was excellent throughout and gave a master class in full-back play.
Adrian Faherty made some terrific saves, and if he could add a few tactical kick-outs to his wing-backs, he would be a top keeper.
Diarmuid Blake was solid at six and stopped much of the Sligo traffic down the middle, while Padraig Joyce kicked 0-3 from play and also set up two key scores for Meehan and showed great vision to pick out Armstrong for his goal. Would Galway have won without him?
Finally, I am a big fan of Gareth Bradshaw and I thought he had a good game, but there is no way I would have given him man-of-the-match as the Sunday Game did. For me that accolade would have been between the Salthill duo of Hanley or Armstrong.