The Galway minor footballers paid the ultimate price for their profligacy in the first 20 minutes of the Connacht semi-final in Tuam Stadium on Saturday, crashing out of the championship by 3-7 to 1-12. This was a game Galway could have won - if they had been more ruthless and efficient in front of goal when they were in almost complete control. We counted at least three glorious goal chances Galway squandered when they were in great positions in that period. Michael Daly shot wide once when in a good position, while his clubmate Colm Mannion was called back for over-carrying when he should have laid the ball off to men who were free inside. Those two incidents stand out, but there was numerous other opportunities to raise a green flag or two.
Both Galway corner forwards, Paul Mannion and Eoin Finnerty, had the beating of their men consistently at that juncture, and instead of leading by 0-8 to 0-2 going into the last five minutes of the first half, it should have been more like 2-8 to 0-2. Galway were made to pay the price for not going for the jugular when Mayo were awarded a soft enough penalty which was well dispatched by centre forward Cian Hanley.
It was a real downer from them, to find themselves only three points up, 0-8 to 1-2 at half-time after lording proceedings and running the Mayo rearguard ragged for most of the first half. However, Galway got back on the saddle after half time and went five up, 0-12 to 1-4, when disaster struck in the shape of a second yellow card for midfielder Michael Daly.
The Mountbellew youngster had been in good form and had kicked a superb free in the first half and was also dominating around the middle before the linesman on the stand side flagged referee Ray McBrien for something he had seen. Daly, having picked up a yellow card for a late challenge in the first half, received his walking papers.
It was a huge blow for Galway's chances as Mayo's midfield partnership of Gary Walsh and Matthew Ruane took over after his departure. Mayo played full-back Barry Duffy as their extra man at the back and he read the game very well to cut out any long deliveries into the previously rampant Finnerty and Mannion.With that foothold in the game, the green and red men rallied and tore into the Galway defence. It always seemed more a matter of when, rather than if, Mayo would breach the Galway defence for a major score.
They did get that goal. And despite Dylan Wall getting one for Galway too, Mayo just raced down the field to cancel it with another almost immediately.
Galway were hanging on by their finger tips for extra time at that stage, but it was not to be.