Gardiner wins it at the death

Connacht Senior Football Championship Final

Captain fantastic: Trevor Mortimer walks from the field with the Nestor Cup. Photo: Sportsfile.

Captain fantastic: Trevor Mortimer walks from the field with the Nestor Cup. Photo: Sportsfile.

Mayo 2-12

Galway 1-14

Peadar Gardiner recused Mayo from blowing their chances of winning their first Connacht title since 2006 when he slotted over the winning point in Pearse Stadium on Sunday in the third minute of injury time. Only moments before his intervention, Mayo playing keep ball on the Galway 50 meter line lost the ball, which Galway quickly moved up field into the arms of Michael Meehan who who shook of Ger Cafferkey and drove the ball low past an advancing Kenneth O'Malley to the pull the game level. The fact that Galway were even able to draw level when they found themselves 2-11 to 0-10 down with nine minutes to go after second half substitute Conor Mortimer goaded , said as much about Mayo sitting back as it did about Galway's comeback.

Mayo won the game thanks to the endeavour of Andy Moran who didn't but a foot wrong all day, with Mayo shell shocked from the Galway goal, Moran picked up the ball on the Galway 50 and won a free. He got up quickly, as Kenneth O'Malley frantically signaled to the Mayo sideline to be allowed to come up and have a cut at the kick from distance. Moran spotted Gardiner making the over lap and the Crossmolina man showed nerves of steel to drive the ball over the bar on the right hand side and save the day for his side.

The truth is Mayo deserved to win this game, but they let themselves get dragged back into it when they tried to slow down the play after Mortimer's goal rather and keep playing the way they were playing and seeing out the game. Mayo went in at the break 1-9 to 0-7 up, playing with the aid of a strong breeze they kept Galway pinned back for long periods of the game, the first Mayo goal came 21 minutes into the half when a long ball was dropped into the Galway danger area where Barry Moran for once was able to shake off Finan Hanley and divert the ball past Adrian Flaherty in the Galway goal to put Mayo 1-5 to 0-3 up. David Heaney got things going for Mayo after two minutes when he pointed an effort from the left hand side after a move involving Aidan O'Shea and Trevor Mortimer. That was quickly followed by a point from Aidan Kilcoyne who looked busy in the first half and will feel hard done by to have been taken off at half time to put Mayo two to the good. Nicky Joyce who was by far and away Galway's top scorer on the day wasn't going to let Mayo run away with it and he had the sides level before the ten minute mark with two sharply taken points. David Heaney who put in a warriors performance before being withdrawn before the end had Mayo back in the lead on 14 minutes when he got away with hopping the ball twice before fisting the ball over the bar. Aidan O'Shea who has now captured a Connacht minor, senior and u21 medal in the past 12 months (as did his club mate Robert Hennelly, who was sub keeper on Sunday ), showed great strength to hold off Niall Coyne and pop the ball over the bar to put Mayo into a 0-4 to 0-3 lead after Padraic Joyce had just got his first score of the day on 16 minutes.

Mayo were on top now and Pat Harte came awful close to bagging Mayo's first goal of the day, a long ball was played in by Trevor Mortimer to O'Shea who laid it off to Harte on the overlap who drove the ball with pace towards the goal only to see it clip the top of the bar and fly over. But Mayo didn't have to wait to long before that goal arrived through Moran. Galway at that stage had introduced Fiachra Breathnach for Niall Coyne, which saw a number of positional switches to their side which lined up at the throw in. A great Alan Dillon score where he managed to drift the ball back inside the post from a tight angle had Mayo fans in jubilant mood ten minutes before the end. But Galway weren't going to lie down without a fight and points from Michael Meehan and a Nicky Joyce brace had the gap back to the minimum before the half hour mark.

But back came Mayo and Trevor Mortimer played the captains role with a steadying score, then Ronan McGarrity got his usual score from the pocket on the right hand side of the 45 meter line, before Alan Dillon's was able toe swivel inside his man and turn back to angle a right foot shot over the from the left hand side of the field.

But Galway were still dangerous and only a last ditch interception by Keith Higgins to palm the ball away prevented Nicky Joyce being clear through on goal. Joyce did have the last say on the scoreboard though when he dropped a free over the bar from 35 meters out to leave Mayo ahead by five at the break.

At half time Mayo introduced Conor Mortimer for Aidan Kilcoyne and and Liam O'Malley who had been having a torrid afternoon on Nicky Joyce up to that point. And Mortimer made an almost immediate impact when he intercepted a ball from Declan Meehan which was aimed at Garreth Bradshaw and popped the ball over the bar. But Mayo went from that score in the fourth minute until the 25th to register their next score as Galway went about their business in cutting the deficit back. Nicky Joyce landed two frees in the 11th and 12th minutes to bring the game back to four points, but a series of Galway wides left them scoreless for the next nine minutes until a Michael Meehan pointed deadball from 40 meters had only a goal between the sides and the game on a knife edge.

Conor Mortimer made up for two bad wides since his first point when he dropped over a free into a strong wind with ten minutes left on the clock and then a minute later he looked to have the game wrapped up for Mayo. Andy Moran launched the ball down the left flank where Trevor Mortimer did extremely well to hold off his man and burst goal-wards. The major was on as both Mortimer brothers broke at speed, Trevor hand passed the ball across the face of the goal to Conor who palmed the ball to the back of the net despite Faherty in the Galway goal getting a finger to it.

That should have been it and the Nestor cup heading back to Mayo under the guidance of John O'Mahony for the first time since 1989. But Mayo sat back and Galway kept plugging away Meehan landed another free, then Kenneth O'Malley had to pull off a fine save to deny the Caltra man a goal when he deflected his shot over the bar for a point. A Séan Armstrong point had the gap back to five with four minutes left on the clock and then Nicky Joyce's scored after he was played in by Pádraig Joyce and there was only a major between the sides.

Mayo looked to see the game out and hold on to possession, first in the left corner where they lost the ball, but when they tried the same again on the right hand side 50 meters out from the Galway goal and lost the ball which a few seconds later was in the back of the Mayo net. But Mayo managed to dig themselves out and Gardiner stood up to be counted when he was needed and sure the Nestor Cup was traveling north at full time.

Mayo: K. O'Malley; L. O'Malley, G Cafferkey, K. Higgins; P. Gardiner (0-1 ), T. Howley, A. Moran; D. Heaney (0-2 ), R. McGarrity (0-1 ); P. Harte (0-1 ), A Dillon (0-2 ), T. Mortimer (0-1 ); A. Kilcoyne (0-1 ), B. Moran (1-0 ), A. O'Shea (0-1 ). Subs: D Vaughan for L O'Malley (35 mins ), C Mortimer (1-2, 1f ) for A Kilcoyne (35 mins ), M Ronaldson for B Moran (52 mins ), T Parsons for D Heaney (66 mins )

Galway: A. Flaherty; N. Coyne, F. Hanley, D. Burke; G. Bradshaw, D. Meehan, D. Blake; P. Conroy, J. Bergin; N. Colman, P. Joyce (0-1 ), G Sice; S. Armstrong (0-1 ), M. Meehan, (1-3, 2f ) N Joyce (0-8, 3f ). Subs: F Breathnach for N Coyne (18 mins ), C Bane for P Conroy (48 mins ), M Clancy for G Bradshaw (60 mins )

 

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