It was a day for grit and determination in a city more known for the flair and flavour of the arts and when it came to the crunch Mayo had that bit more of battle hardness than their hosts on the shore of Galway Bay.
Five years on since their last provincial title, Mayo picked up their 47th Nestor Cup to pull level with Galway on the roll of honour despite the best effort of the Tribesmen to reel them in at the death.
Mayo had done their heavy lifting on the scoreboard in the fist half and hour leading by five points as the first half entered a lengthy period of injury time and like a boxer who pilled up the winning rounds early on in the contest - they had done enough to see off the second half comeback from Padraic Joyce’s men.
A number of Mayo players picked up their first ever Connacht senior medal today and two of them Matthew Ruane and Eoghan McLaughlin showed the fighting spirt of those much more experienced them in the second half, winning a number of turnovers to take some wind from the Galway sails.
While another Bryan Walsh finished off with two points - his first an outrageous score from out not he right hand side of the field early in the second half repaid James Horan’s faith in him, when he was introduced from the bench at half time.
At the crunch Galway had chances to pull themselves level and even get in for a goal only for the intervention of McLaughlin who pulled down Sean Kelly right near the death on the edge of the penalty area - taking a black card and a close range free rather than give up the goal chance or even a penalty.
The final whistle: James Horan celebrates at the full time. Photo: Sportsfile
Galway hit the front right from the off with Dessie Connelly pointing after the Tribesmen bruh through the heart of the Mayo defence. Not long after Mayo could have go in for a goal when McLaughlin found Cillian O’Connor but his effort was well smothered by Bernard Power in the Galway goal.
Tommy Conroy got the Mayo scoreboard moving when he pointed two minutes in after a good break involving Lee Keegan and Stephen Coen freed up space for The Neale man to point.
Cillian O’Connor put Mayo into the lead three minutes in when he was found by a quick free in behind the cover and Mayo were up and moving.
The lead was stretched out to two points on the six minute mark when Conroy got his second of the day after Ryan O’Donoghue and Kevin McLoughlin combined to pick him out in a good position in front of goal.
The gap was stretched out to three when the O’Connor brothers combined and the younger one put the ball over the bar. Mayo’s fifth point came from the boot of Paddy Durcan - the Castlebar Mitchels man broke a gallop through the heart of the Galway rearguard before pointing during a moment of brief respite from the man-marking job he’d been given on Galway danger man Shane Walsh.
Walsh did cut the gap back to three points from a free just before the first water break to keep his side in touch with Mayo. Despite being under the cosh on the scoreboard in the opening quarter Galway were doing well on their own kick-out and in the middle of the park in general and for the rest of the first half Aidan O’Shea was dragooned out of his full forward position to shore up the middle third for Horan’s side.
Ryan O’Donoghue pointed a mark 25 minutes in after being picked out by a deft ball that took out half the Galway defence from O’Shea and Mattie Ruane charged through the middle to fist over to have Mayo 0-7 to 0-2 up with just over 33 minutes gone on the stopwatch.
But there were six minutes of injury time to be played in the first half with both Cian D’Arcy and Johnny Duane having to be withdrawn due to injury in the opening half.
Walsh pointed a free from close rang and then landed his first from play to make it three point game on 39 minutes. Mayo stemmed the tide through Cillian O’Connor’s first point of the day - the Ballintubber hit man finished the day up with just three points - showing how disciplined in defence not letting him get many opportunities to have shots at the target.
On the run: Eoghan McLaughlin on the run in Salthill. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul Kelly landed the last score of the half to leave it a three point game going into the second half and wind at Galway’s backs for the closing 35 minutes.
Gary O’Donnell landed the first score of the second half right from the restart - but Mayo hit back right away with Ruane pointing after driving thorough the heart of the Galway defence. The lead was pushed out to four by Conroy - just after Johnny Heaney flashed a goal chance across the face of David Clarke’s goal.
Bryan Wash extended the Mayo lead even more with a fantastic effort from the right hand side of the field, slipping as he hit it under pressure from the Galway defence. But this was not going to be a game that Galway threw in the towel and they came right back at Mayo.
Walsh pointed on 41 minutes, then Paul Kelly hit a long hanging shot that cleared the crossbar and then another Walsh free after he was fouled by Lee Keegan close in on goal off the ball had the game back to just two points - Keegan having been dispatched to pick up Walsh after Durcan had picked up a yellow card late in the first half.
Cillian O’Connor steadied the ship with a pointed free after Kevin McLoughlin showed plenty of nous and experience to win a free in shooting range. Ronan Steede hammered an effort wide for Galway but right form the kick-out David Clarke and Stephen Coen got their wires crossed and Paul Conroy nipped in to win the ball and drive it over the bar to leave just two points in it on a score of 0-12 to 0-10 in Mayo’s favour at the second half water break.
It was about to get harum-scarum from both sides into the final few minutes of this absorbing contest, both sides turned over the ball in good positions and were off target with passes as the knowledge that one side had only 15 minutes left in the championship for the year seeped in.
Cillian O’Connor pointed free after a massive turnover by Ruane to put Mayo three clear - then Eoghan McLaughlin turned over Galway and charged right up the field to the Galway 21 meter line when he unleashed a shot that was brilliantly saved by Power and out for a 45 that drifted just wide from the boot of O’Connor.
Walsh hit a fantastic score for Galway to keep them right in the mix from out under the stand - with 33 minutes gone on the stopwatch Mayo could have got in for another goal after another turn our by McLaughlin he picked out Cillian O’Connor in space the Ballintubber fan found his club mate Walsh on the run off his far shoulder - there was a chance to go for goal but Walsh took the “sensible” option and put it over the bar to keep Mayo three clear.
Watch the Full-Time Highlights of Galway v Mayo in the Connacht Senior Football Final here on GAANOW!Full-Time Score:Mayo: 0-14Galway: 0-13 pic.twitter.com/RjdkXiCzgd— The GAA (@officialgaa ) November 15, 2020
Conroy cut it back to two points with a fine score as the game slipped past the 70th minute - twice in two minutes Walsh had chances to cut the gap back to a single point with frees from difficult enough angles and both times his effort trailed wide of the post on the far side.
Then it looked like Galway were going to hit Mayo with a real sucker punch when Sean Kelly drove through the right hand side of the Mayo defence from the left wing - he was baring down on goal when McLaughlin halted his progress right on the edge of the penalty area - a free in was awarded by Sean Hurson right on the edge of the 14m line which was converted by Walsh to leave just one point in it .
There was still time for Galway to mount a few more attacks at a late sideline ball that looked like Walsh might have a crack at it - but Galway tried to work it short and Mayo turned the ball over and were able to see the game out and claim Nestor Cup number 47 for Mayo.
Mayo: Cillian O’Connor 0-4 (3fs ), Tommy Conroy 0-3, Bryan Walsh and Mattie Ruane 0-2 each, Paddy Durcan, Diarmuid O’Connor, and Ryan O’Donoghue (m ) 0-1 each.
Galway: Shane Walsh 0-7 (4fs ), Paul Conroy 0-3, Paul Kelly, Dessie Conneely, and Gary O’Donnell 0-1 each.
Mayo: David Clarke; Paddy Durcan, Chris Barrett, Oisin Mullin; Stephen Coen, Lee Keegan, Eoghan McLaughlin; Conor Loftus, Mattie Ruane; Kevin McLoughlin, Ryan O’Donoghue, Diarmuid O’Connor; Tommy Conroy, Aidan O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor. Subs: Bryan Walsh for O’Donoghue (HT ), Jordan Flynn for Loftus (58 ), Mark Moran for Conroy (60 ), Keith Higgins for McLoughlin (64 ), Fionn McDonagh for Ruane (70+3 ).
Galway: Bernard Power; Liam Silke, Sean Kelly, Cillian McDaid; Gary O’Donnell, Johnny Duane, Johnny Heaney; Cein D’Arcy, Michael Daly; Paul Kelly, Paul Conroy, Sean Ó Maoilchiaráin; Ian Burke, Dessie Conneely, Shane Walsh. Subs: Ronan Steede for D’Arcy (23 ), Gareth Bradshaw for Duane (27 ), Kieran Molloy for O’Donnell (48 ), Damien Comer for Burke (49 ), Gary Sice for P Kelly (64 ).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone ).