Galway and Mayo have plenty to prove

Tomás Ó Flatharta will lead Galway into championship action for the first time this Sunday when his side takes on Mayo in McHale Park at 2pm in the Connacht semi-final.

Both teams have much to prove to their supporters as their form has been very patchy over the past year.

Galway were relegated from division one of the league earlier in the season and had a very poor championship campaign last year which saw them suffer consecutive defeats at the hands of both Sligo and Wexford.

Mayo, under the guidance of James Horan, were given an awful fright in Ruislip a month ago against division four outfit London and were very fortunate to get out of there with a narrow win after extra time, winning by 0-19 to 2-10.

Both teams are to be announced after their respective training sessions tonight (Thursday ).

The feeling in Mayo is that there will be changes from the team that started against London. What is definite, though, is that up front they will look to the leadership of Andy Moran and team captain Alan Dillon, with Alan Freeman and probably Jason Doherty in support roles.

The talk earlier in the week was that the two O’Sheas, Aiden and Seamus, would man the midfield slots, but there is no guarantee the two Breaffy men will get the nod.

James Kilcullen and Jason Gibbons lined out there against London and one of them may still get the call, while big Ronan McGarrity is also back in training for the past few nights. Horan has some big calls to make and it will be interesting to see if he goes with an orthodox six forwards or if he withdraws one, as he has done in the past with Ballintubber and as happened in Ruislip.

Galway starting to look settled

Galway have looked settled in the past few weeks, and the team that lined out against Cork in a recent challenge will make up the bulk of the starting 15.

Adrian Faherty will be in goal and in front of him are likely to be Alan Burke, Colin Forde and Johnny Duane.

Forde and Duane (plus Mark Hehir and Greg Higgins ) will be making their senior intercounty championship debuts and, while both are fine young players, McHale Park will be a step up from what they have faced in the past.

Johnny Duane has always impressed at centre-back with both the county u-21s and with St James, but I am not so sure about corner back. We will see on Sunday if it is a position that suits him.

The half back line is expected to be the three Gs - Gary O’Donnell, Greg Higgins and Gary Sice, with team captain Finian Hanley and Joe Bergin in the engine room.

Up front, the wing-slots are expected to be manned by Gareth Bradshaw and Eoin Concannon, with u-21 star Mark Hehir at centre-forward.

Both Bradshaw and Concannon will be expected to do the grafting on the wings and be productive, hard tackling, and effective going in both directions.

The inside line should start with Padraig Joyce, Paul Conroy and Cormac Bane.

Home advantage

There is not usually much between these sides in championship and Sunday is not likely to be any different.

If Galway had Michael Meehan, Nicky Joyce and Sean Armstrong available, it would strengthen their hand considerably and give them more options up front.

Home advantage is a plus for Mayo, but they will need to lift their game to a far superior level than their display against London. In the league, Mayo won by eight points in Tuam Stadium and were far the better side, but much has changed since then and Galway are in a much better place by virtue of doing reasonably well in their last few league games and the u-21 success.

That u-21 victory should give Galway momentum, but it would be a brave, or foolish person, who would predict with any degree of certainty who will win on Sunday. There are a phenomenal amount of imponderables and many players of unknown quantities at this level.

There is very little between the sides in the betting stakes either with Mulholland’s having Galway at 6/5 with Mayo at 10/11. It is 13/2 for the draw. However, I think that 9/4 for a double with the Galway minors is a reasonable punt.


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