Galway supporters left Tuam Stadium on Sunday afternoon with leaden hearts. The players and the management team must also have been mortified by the second-half collapse which was of epic proportions.
There can be no excuses when your opponents blow you away at the start of the second half with barely a whimper of protest or defiance in return.
And it is impossible to deny a team utterly shown up when the opposition manager starts taking off many of his best performers when there are still 15 minutes remaining. Everyone knows the game is over, but there are no white towels in GAA.
Mayo only led by 1-07 to 0-7 at half time. However they came out and battered Galway in the third quarter, and roared into a 12-point lead at their ease.
At 2-13 to 0-7 the game was over and all Galway could do was stumble along and try to kick a few scores to take the awful look off the scoreboard. Thankfully Mayo had mercy on them and took the foot off the accelerator, allowing their championship opposition next June to pop over some late scores.
Mayo won every line on the field with comfort for those 25 minutes after half time and they were never going to be caught when they raced into that type of a lead. They won the game pulling up.
Alan Dillon at centre-forward set up most attacking plays against a clearly out-of-position Finian Hanley who never looked comfortable at six. NUIG Sigerson player Jason Doherty took his two goals superbly. How he was allowed to solo 30 yards down the middle of the Galway defence for his first one is a question that must be addressed.
As usual Galway were forced to live on scraps at midfield where Ronan McGarrity was the dominant force. Eventually manager Tomás Ó Flatharta acted and an out-of-sorts Paul Conroy was replaced by Diarmuid Blake. Galway are no nearer to a solution to their midfield woes than they were the day Kevin Walsh retired.
Galway travel to Kerry on Sunday week, and follow that up in round five with a visit from Cork’s team of footballing giants. They have Dublin in Pearse Stadium in the final round. Those fixtures do not bode well for the Tribesmen, and anyone with a betting slip that reads Galway 5/2 to be relegated from the first day of the season looks certain to cash in.
Assuming that is the team’s lot, it will take some major transformation, rejuvenation and improvement on the training field to see how there will be a change of result in the championship in Castlebar on the last Sunday in June.
Mayo are no world beaters, but they are an improving side.
Mayo were full of running, committed to the cause, and worked exceedingly hard as a unit. Similar to Fine Gael in that county in the election, they were a team with a plan and the know-how to carry it out. They have the personnel to be genuinely ambitious about going somewhere in the next season or two. A little bit more steel in some spots and they would rattle most.
Competition for places in their side will be intense over the next few months and when you consider that powerful newcomer Alan Freeman, Keith Higgins, Trevor Howley, Trevor Mortimer, Seamus O’Shea and David Clarke are all still unavailable, they will be a strong outfit with options when they have a full hand.
Mayo have been far more successful than Galway at minor and u-21 levels over the past four years and that is starting to show itself in the senior ranks. Some of the disillusioned Galway fans walking out of Tuam yesterday muttered how things would be better when (and if ) Michael Meehan, Padraic and Nicky Joyce were back in the forward division.
Being realistic, there is no guarantee Meehan will return to his brilliant best in June and July after a lay-off of almost a year through injury. Padraic Joyce will be 34 this April and as the weeks go by, the chance of Nicky Joyce reappearing decrease. Regardless of the holy trinity reappearing or not, unless Galway can compete at midfield, it will be irrelevant, because they will not get any supply.
Based on the evidence on view on Sunday, Mayo are in a far better place at senior level than their near neighbours and have a more realistic chance of staying in division one and going on to contest and maybe win a Connacht championship this summer.
Whether Galway can turn things around a little bit for the championship remains to be seen. They have a huge amount of work to do out on the training field.