If last Sunday is anything to go by, strap yourself in for another roller coaster

GAA: Casey's Call

If Mayo's opening game of 2020 is a sign of what we can expect for the rest of the season, then strap yourselves in, brace yourselves, we are in for one hell of a roller coaster ride.

Mayo's inability to close out a game that they were in total control of while squandering a six point second half lead in the process, left the thousands of Mayo fans leaving Elvery's MacHale Park disillusioned and a little disappointed.

It was a tough watch for Mayo fans as we witnessed Galway dominate proceedings and Mayo panic for the last 10 minutes, to snatch a draw and ultimately win the contest on penalty kicks. Losing on penalties didn't bother me in the slightest, despite it only being an FBD league semi final, there was immense pressure on the penalty takers because of the huge crowd and because of the old Mayo/Galway rivalry.

Neither team likes losing against the other and that would have consumed the penalty takers' mindset as they walked to the penalty spot to take their kicks. From memory, it was the first time you didn't see droves of supporters leaving the ground with five minutes to go because you just knew it was going to end in a draw and the penalty shoot-out was a carnival way to end the contest.

I wouldn't like to see a game of major importance decided in this way. Neither new Galway manager, Padraic Joyce or James Horan, will want games decided upon in this manner in the future either. Despite the end result, it was a thoroughly enjoyable high-scoring spectacle with each team finishing with a healthy 1-17 a piece.

Beforehand the game was all about the return of Tom Parsons. It was great to see him starting in midfield again and his first half point almost lifted the roof off the stand with the adulation from the large Mayo crowd. These pre-season games are all about building fitness and getting teams game ready for the start of the national league.

They are also all about trying to find new players that might make a difference to their teams' fortunes for the coming season. Mayo had three very impressive débutantes who are likely to give James Horan plenty of options when the league proper throws in against Donegal on Saturday week. Padraig O'Hora, Brian Walsh and Jordan Flynn were equally as impressive as each other and didn't look one bit out of place.

O'Hora resembles someone who should be fronting a rock band but he is also very capable of doing a job on the pitch, he is very aggressive in the tackle and impressively carried the ball to good effect against Galway. I thought Brian Walsh was brilliant at wing forward. On top of scoring 0-3 from play, he tracked his direct marker Cillian McDaid very effectively throughout, at one stage robbing him of possession in front of the stand, which drew huge appreciation from the Mayo supporters. He was very disciplined, something he has mastered from his club's regimental defensive tactics. His penalty miss is likely to put a bit of a dampener on his performance for him personally but he shouldn't let that bother him, it was a début to savour.

Jordan Flynn is a player of real interest. A mountain of a man that has a few slinky skills up his sleeve. He is a great option for a kick-out as he is very difficult to deal with aerially. He is also not afraid to shoot and capped his début with two nice points from play, but the impressive mark he won in the first half was his highlight for me.

Kevin McLoughlin showed there is plenty of life left in him, scoring a peach of a goal and Brian Reape showed glimpses of what he is capable of. The introduction of Fergal Boland and Colm Boyle made a huge difference from a Mayo perspective and both were heavily involved when they entered the fray.

Last Sunday also saw the introduction of the new rules for 2020. The closest anyone came to claiming a forward mark was when Brian Reape out-muscled two Galway defenders, but lost grip of the ball at the bitter end. It's obvious players are not willing to risk bombing ball into the full forward line in pursuit of a mark and would rather keep possession with a more measured pass.

Cillian McDaid received the only black card of the day and had 10 minutes in the sin bin, which resulted in Mayo having a purple patch, scoring 1-3 while he was off. Expect any team that has a player sin binned in the league to kill the clock and time waste as much as they can until they are allowed to return to the full complement. Last Sunday certainly did whet the appetite for the start of the league.


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