It was never going to be an easy assignment for Enda Gilvarry's new batch of Mayo minors, opening their championship account against a well fancied Galway side in the home of Galway football in Tuam Stadium. John Donnellan's side came into the game on the back of having already had a championship game under their belt against Sligo last weekend and a growing reputation.
Those who made their way to the north Galway venue on Saturday evening, could have only been impressed by the young 'Tribesmen who for the first 40 minutes of the game looked to well on course to end Mayo's defence of the All Ireland championship at the very first hurdle. While Mayo kept in touch with Galway and were only four points down when the turning point of the game arrived, if Galway hadn't been so profligate in attack earlier on the contest they should have been home and hosed by the time Michael Daly picked up his second yellow card and left his side reduced to 14 men for the last 20 minutes of the game. But credit to Mayo, when the chance presented itself they grabbed it with both hands and outscored their opponents by 2-2 to 1-0 when they had the man advantage to book a place in the Connacht final in a fortnights time against Roscommon.
Galway started the game with a bang as Peter Cooke fisted the ball over the bar inside the first 40 seconds. Straight from Matthew Flanagan's kick-out from that score the home-side tacked on their second point. Mayo's Matthew Ruane broke Flanagan's kick-out, but the breaking ball was picked up Matthew Reddington who moved it on to Colin Brady who in-turn found Paul Mannion who scored from close range.
Cian Hanley got Mayo moving on the scoreboard three minutes in with a free from close range after TJ Byrne was fouled after he won a long ball in from Ruane, that was to be Mayo's last score for the next 16 minutes as Galway took control. Galway's full-forward line of Eoin Finnerty, Peter Cooke and Paul Mannion were causing Mayo all kinds of problems, winning the ball out in front of their men. After four minutes Finnerty beat Mikey Barrett to the ball out under the stand and was able to make a break for goal, his low shot was well saved by Flanagan in the Mayo goal. The resultant 45' was stroked over the bar by Cooke to put Galway 0-3 to 0-1 up after five minutes. Not long after Galway had another goal chance when Michael Daly barreled his way through the Mayo defence and had not one, but two chances to find the Mayo net, his first effort was well saved by Flanagan and when the rebound fell to him on the deck he pulled his effort just wide of the post. By the quarter-of-an-hour mark Galway were five points to the good thanks to scores from Eoin Finnerty, Paul Mannion and Matthew Reddington and Mayo were taking on serious water.
Enda Gilvarry wasn't long changing things around with Stephen Brennan coming in for Mikey Barrett and TJ Byrne moving out towards the middle of the field to help and win ball for a Mayo forward line that was starved of possession for the first 15 minutes.
Cian Hanley had a chance to cut the gap from a free 17 minutes in but he skewed the ball wide off the outside of his boot, however the Ballaghderreen man shook off that miss to nail another free two minutes later to register Mayo's second score. Michael Daly and Eoin Finnerty tagged on two more points for Galway and Mayo were six down coming up to the break. Three minutes from the turn around, Mayo got a break when referee Ray McBrien awarded them a penalty after a scramble for possession in the Galway box after a Cian Hanley effort at goal was parried out by Ronán Ó'Baeoláin. Hanley held his nerve from the spot and found the back of the net sending Mayo in trailing by 1-2 to 0-8 at the break. In injury time in the first half Galway's star midfielder picked up his first yellow card for a late challenge on the impressive Sharoize Akram who put in a power of work in the wing forward role and his smart use of possession in the closing stages of the contest played a major part in Mayo clinging on to victory at the end.
The opening stages of the second half saw both sides swap a number of points with Paul Mannion (3 ) and Eoin Finnerty finding the target for Galway and Cian Hanley (2 ), TJ Byrne and Oisin Horan keeping Mayo in touch. Nine minutes into the half Galway were rocked when Michael Daly picked up his second yellow card for a high challenge out near the sideline and Mayo grabbed the advantage with glee. Matthew Ruane kicked a fine point to kick-start the fight back and Mayo took control of the game. The game was leveled up eleven minutes from the end when Mayo sub Liam Byrne who drove the ball to the back of the net from close range after Cian Hanley's initial effort was saved well. Two minutes later Galway restored their three point advantage when Dylan Wall found the back of the net after Paddy Madden's shot was blocked by Matthew Flanagan, but he could only divert the ball into the path of Wall. But the drama didn't end there as Mayo went straight back down the field and raised their third green flag less than 60 seconds later when midfielder Gary Walsh forced the ball over the line from close in and leveled the game up again. Two minutes from time, Mayo went into the lead for the first time in the game when Hanley pointed a 13 meter free. Initially the referee had signaled for a Mayo penalty for a foot-block, but after consulting with his umpires he awarded a free-kick instead. Galway had a chance to tie the contest up at the death when they were awarded a free, that the referee brought in 10 meters after Mayo tried to stop a quick free being taken. But Mayo weren't punished as Peter Cooke's effort from 45m out drifted to the left and wide. That was that and Mayo move on to the Connacht final in two weeks time.
Mayo: C Hanley (1-4, 3f 1pen ), L Byrne (1-0 ), G Walsh (1-0 ), M Ruane (0-1 ), O Horan (0-1 ), TJ Byrne (0-1 )
Galway: P Mannion (0-5,2f ), E Finnerty (0-3 ), D Wall (1-0 ), P Cooke (0-2, 1 45' ), M Daly (0-1, 1f ), M Reddington (0-1, 1f )
Mayo: M Flanagan; M Barrett, B Duffy, E O'Donoghue; J Forkan, S Conlon, C Kilkenny; G Walsh, M Ruane; S Akram, C Hanley, O Horan; C Byrne, TJ Byrne, B Reape. Subs: S Brennan, F Duffy, L Byrne, J Reilly
Galway:R O'Beoláin; R Greene, S A Kelly, L Kelly; A Claffey, C Brady, K Molloy; M Daly, N Daly; M Reddington, C Mannion, D Wall; E Finnerty, P Cooke, P Mannion. Subs: P Madden, M Rohan
Ref: R McBrien (Leitrim )