On the Mayo Advertiser vodcast last week - all four pundits went very strongly for a Mayo win in the Connacht final. John Casey of this parish even pushed his prediction out to a six point win for James Horan's men. Hence there was no real surprise last Sunday when Mayo proved once again that they are by far the best team in this province.
Roscommon are narrowing the gap, however Mayo are still the top dogs. They fully merited their four in a row of Connacht titles and it was nice to be at MacHale Park to see Andy Moran make history. The margin of victory was seven points, however, it could have been a good bit more, notwithstanding Robbie Hennelly's fine penalty save off Shane Walsh. I felt that Mayo could have got three more goals had their luck been in. They were denied a stonewall penalty at the start of the second half. Lee Keegan also made a bad effort at a goal, when he was in acres of space (again ) and totally unmarked in front of Manus Breathnach, and his shot bombed off the crossbar for a point. And Kevin McLoughlin hit really tamely at Breathnach when he was one-on-one with him in the closing minutes too. All those could have been "Mayo majors" too, and had they hit the onion sack we would have been in the same territory as last year's trouncing in Salthill. Looking forward, and the warm glow of another Connacht title will lose its gloss quickly if Mayo cannot add another, and much more glamorous, trophy by late September.
Based on last weekend's performance, is that likely? No, is the most logical answer.
The difference in physical development, strength, and conditioning between Galway and Mayo was evident all over the field, and in close combat it was invariably a Mayo man who came out with the ball. When you are being totally out-muscled, out-paced, out-thought, and out-played, it is a tough station, and Galway did not have the physical power, or ball players, to compete with Mayo. However that will not be the case if, and when, Mayo face Kerry, or Dublin, or even Donegal or Monaghan.
A key concern for Mayo is this; Are they any better than last year? Or 2012? Are they any better equipped this year to beat Dublin if they get back to an All-Ireland final? Defensively they seem reasonable enough, although Paul Conroy did cause a lot of bother to Ger Cafferkey in the second half. But, the team's massive over-dependence on Cillian O'Connor in the full-forward line has to be a genuine worry for Mayo supporters. The Ballintubber man is the real "go-to player" now in the Mayo forward division, as evidenced by his eight points and two wonderful assists for Mayo's goals. However if a team stops him, who will Mayo turn to for crucial scores? If Dublin's Jonny Cooper or Rory O'Carroll nullified Cillian, where would Mayo look? Have Andy Moran or Alan Dillon the pace in their legs for the really top level at Croke Park? Michael Conroy and Alan Freeman both came on last weekend, but are either of them the solution in the white heat of an All-Ireland final? I expect Mayo to reach the semi-finals or even final again, however I do not see them winning Sam. Unfortunately, it looks like that ship has sailed.
What of Galway?
They have a have a date with Peter Creedon’s Tipperary in Tullamore (7pm ) on Saturday week. And it looks quite possible that the Tipperary footballers might do the same job on Galway as their hurlers did. The Galway forwards hit 16 points last weekend and that would win a lot of games, however, Galway's porous full-back line will not rectified by the Tipperary game. No doubt Alan Mulholland is hoping that Joss Moore will be back by then. In Conor Sweeney, Barry Grogan, and Philip Austin Tipperary have a full-forward line to make hay in there. Creedon was in Castlebar last Sunday to run the rule over Galway and he was quoted as saying; "We're going to take a bit of beating." And he was right. Galway did defeat them 1-12 to 0-11 last June in the first round of the qualifiers at Pearse Stadium, however, it will take a far superior performance than that one, to do so again.