Tribesmen come calling on Sunday

GAA: Connacht GAA SFC

The tribe is coming: Matthew Ruane is surrounded by Galway players in last year's Connacht final in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile.

The tribe is coming: Matthew Ruane is surrounded by Galway players in last year's Connacht final in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile.

The real stuff starts now. The league is a thing of the past, put away neatly in a box until early next year. it's championship time and while the Easter Eggs may still be lingering around the house ready to be finished off, Sunday is the start of a new main course and there are few tastier ones than Mayo and Galway in the championship.

In the Advertiser GAA Podcast preview of the game, John Casey speaks about the special rivalry between these two counties and how it is one of the last great remaining rivalries in the game - and on Sunday we're expecting another mouthwatering encounter.

Both sides head into the game on the back of Croke Park defeats in league finals. Mayo's loss to Kerry in the division one final could be more damning and long-lasting than Galway's division two final loss to Roscommon. Mayo failed to really get to the pitch of that game at all against the Kingdom, while for Galway, getting promotion back to division one was their number one aim at the start of the year and they had that secured before even the groups stages of the league wrapped up.

For Mayo, injury concerns are still to the fore, with doubts over a number of key players still hanging in the air in the lead-up to this game. Jordan Flynn was the latest to join a long list of walking wounded in the league final after picking up a foot injury in that game. Paddy Durcan, Oisin Mullin, Diarmuid O'Connor and Rob Hennelly were absentees from that game along with Brendan Harrison.

If Mayo aren't able to get a good portion of those players back in situ for Sunday, they will face an even bigger task against a Galway side who are just itching to get one over on Mayo after being beaten in the last three championship meetings between the sides.

Sunday is also the first time that Mayo will be back in action in Hastings Insurance MacHale Park this season after the resurfacing work carried out on it last year was allowed time to bed in properly. With a huge crowd expected through the turnstiles, a white hot atmosphere is almost guaranteed for this clash of the two Connacht heavyweights.

How Mayo match up with Galway's key players will be massively important to how the game goes on Sunday and getting as many of their previously injured men back in situ will be vitally important to this.

The presence of Damien Comer in the Galway attack is something that Mayo will be mindful of, Comer is full of power and pace and won't shirk from a physical battle and Padraig O'Hora could be the man handed the task of shackling him and curbing his influence. Shane Walsh's speed, creativity and elusiveness due to his ability to play off either foot can turn a game in Galway's favour at any stage. The likes of Paddy Durcan or Oisin Mullin, if fit, could be options to keep an eye on him and use their own attacking prowess to drive him back into his own half and take his attacking threat out of the game.

Paul Conroy has been around the block for a long time and is an excellent midfielder who can also shoot points from a range of distances, Jordan Flynn could be a good foe for him, but if he is ruled out, Mayo will be hoping that Diarmuid O'Connor is back fighting fit. While he had been in flying form going forward, Mayo supporters would prefer to see Mattie Ruane not have to go toe-to-toe with Conroy and see his own attacking punch taken out of the game.

Up front, Ryan O'Donohgue has been Mayo's top man all through the league. The league final wasn't a day he'll remember fondly, but nor will many of Mayo's attackers. But he has shown the drive, self belief and determination that has marked him out as one of the top forwards in the game and Galway will have to keep close tabs on him. Cillian O'Connor got some game time in that league final, but will he be ready for a full 70 minutes this weekend? If so, it is great news for Mayo, but even having him as a live option is a massive boost for their chances.

Even when fortunes have favoured one of these counties over the other for periods of time, there is relatively little ever between them on the scoreboard and come Sunday evening - don't expect there to be much this time around either.

For more coverage check out the Advertiser GAA Podcast where we preview this game with John Casey and get the Galway view from Cian O'Connell. The podcast is available on all major podcast platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts.


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