Relief, followed by pride, followed by excitement.
Relief that we have finally beaten Galway in a meaningful encounter. Pride because of the way Mayo went about their business in the round four qualifier against the Tribesmen. Excitement to see what lies ahead in the super 8's.
There is no point being wise after the event. I was concerned for Mayo’s chances against our old nemesis, Galway, simply because our panel had been drained by injury after injury. It seemed like the football Gods were not looking favourably on us again. There was a crisis, Mayo had an injury list as big as New York. On top of the long term injuries, Mattie Ruane, Diarmuid O'Connor and Lee Keegan were all recently added to the ever-growing list. Some die-hard Mayo supporters had given up hope, it's not going to end well - or so they thought.
After the performance against Galway, the feel-good factor is well and truly back and things don't look as bad as they once did. Cillian O'Connor and Donie Vaughan were back in the starting 15 to add much needed steel and experience and James Carr reappeared, after last being sighted in the Big Apple. I have to admit, I thought the naming of Lee Keegan in the match day 26 was some form of psychological advantage James Horan was trying to get over Kevin Walsh. There was no way Lee could line out seven days after looking like he had done damage to his ankle ligaments, was there? Or so we thought.
From the get-go you realised Mayo were hell-bent on ending their losing streak against Galway. Donie Vaughan grappled with Cillian McDaid as Aidan O'Shea claimed the throw-in to a huge Mayo roar. This game had Mayo/ Galway rivalry written all over it, a proper knock-out championship fare. I was a little amazed when told the last time the teams met in a knock-out affair was in 1999, the year I won my last Connacht championship medal.
Cillian O’Connor’s inclusion from the start lifted the huge Mayo crowd. Kevin Walsh sprung a surprise himself when he changed his goalkeeper just before the throw in. That move backfired spectacularly. Replacement Bernard Power landed a kick-out straight over the sideline early on. From the resulting line ball, Darren Coen's mishit shot was clumsily scoffed by Power, allowing James Carr to rifle the rebound to the net. Power needed the ground to swallow him, it's a horrible place for a player to be.
A young player like Carr may have thought, I've got my goal that'll do for the first half, stay out of trouble, work hard and don't try anything ridiculous for the rest of the game. James Carr obviously didn't read that script - to score one of the greatest Mayo goals ever and most definitely the goal of the 2019 season so far. He was helped enormously by some dreadful Galway defending, but we can't take that away from him because of the directness and confident powerful run he made that ended up with a bullet of a strike into the corner stanchion of the Galway goal. Where he received the pass from Paddy Durcan made it all the more impressive, on the 65 touching the sideline, with most of the Galway team between him and the Galway posts.
Mayo folk were losing the run of themselves after the goal and rightfully so. Darren Coen has continued to show that he is Mayo's go-to man for long-range point-taking. Despite his three scores though, he'll be disappointed he missed two others, such is his rich vein of form. David Clarke put in another solid shift to consolidate his number one status, however he too will be frustrated Shane Walsh's last-gasp free found its way to the Mayo net. All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable game with the main objective achieved, reaching the Super 8's and ending our barren spell against Galway.
What we will be hoping now is that Mayo's impressive recent run against the Kingdom will continue in Killarney on Sunday. As the old cliché states, you are only as good as your last game and Mayo more than anyone know they have to hit the ground running against Kerry. Losing game one of the Super 8's puts you under all sorts of pressure. Worryingly, we are pencilling the Meath game down as an automatic win. A good performance and win on Sunday should have the confidence sky high for Meath in Croke Park the following week.
You don't really want to be pinning your chances on a last group game against high-flying Donegal. Ironically the home and away scenario is kind to Mayo and not so much Ulster champions Donegal, who I'm sure would rather have Kerry or Mayo in Ballybofey and not Meath as it turns out. Whether James Horan decides Lee Keegan is fit enough to take on Sean O'Shea, coupled with his choice of man marker for David Clifford, will have a huge bearing on the result. With the huge Mayo support expected, home advantage won't count for much in Killarney, Mayo are better on the road anyway.
I have to congratulate Tomas Morley and the Mayo minors on their marvellous win over Galway after extra time in The Connacht final. The buzz that came out of Tuam certainly set the tone for what was about to unfold for the rest of the weekend. Well done boys.
Unfortunately our U20's were unable to complete the hat trick against Galway, going down on a scoreline of 0-16 to 0-10 in the Connacht final in Tuam on Wednesday evening. Mayo can't really have any complaints as the better side won on the night.