Mayo achieved the double/double in Elverys MacHale Park last Sunday with our minors and seniors winning the Connacht championship for the second year in a row. I could only imagine it was a bit surreal for Diarmuid O’Connor who only 12 months ago was on that minor team, and now finds himself togging with the seniors and winning his first senior medal while some of his old team mates collected their second in the minor grade.
There was an unbelievable crowd in Castlebar for the game, way more than I expected given that the senior final was a foregone conclusion. I left Charlestown at 11am and still missed the first 10 minutes of the minor final. There was gridlock in front of the media tower such were the masses of bodies trying to find a seat.
Despite me thinking Mayo would have to be at their very best to win the minor, they really did not have to be as I got misinformed about the quality of the Roscommon team. However when Roscommon took the lead with 15 minutes left on the clock, Mayo showed real character to turn it around. They did not panic as can often happen at minor level, and quite simply picked off scores at will to win comfortably in the end. Brian Reape’s delightful finish to the net is something he will never forget. Onwards and upwards for now as the losers of the Ulster final between Donegal and Armagh await, I am sure that will be a much stiffer test.
The senior game went pretty much as I expected, Mayo left a lot of punters sweating on their -4 accumulators when they really should have been home and hosed by 10- 12 points. You have to give Galway a little credit here, despite them suffering real sucker punches of goals they kept coming back time and time again. For the life of me I cannot figure out why Alan Mulholland left Donal O’Neill isolated on Cillian O’Connor for the entire afternoon. We are somewhat lucky Danny Cummins left his shooting boots at home as he gave ring rusty Chris Barrett plenty to think about and I have no doubt James Horan is wondering how Paul Conroy got in for three second half points.
Laying down a marker
The tone for this game was set when Colm Boyle clattered into Damien Comer; the hit shook the foundations of the stand in MacHale Park and subsequently ended Comer’s involvement. Aidan O’Shea’s deployment in the half forward line worked very well as he got on copious ball and cleared the running lines for Lee Keegan and Jason Doherty on several occasions. The three Mayo goals were all special in their own way. Cillian O’Connor’s assist for Lee Keegan’s tap in was of the highest order, O’Connor’s deft touch made it impossible for Keegan to miss, he could have headed it to the Galway net (according to O’Connor he heard Keegan screaming like a girl for the pass, interesting for when they collide at training again ). Jason Doherty’s cool finish with his left foot was top drawer stuff. If Messi or Neymar had scored that goal pundits would be on about it for months. Doherty gave Galway net minder, Manus Breathnach the eyes, made him dive to his left and coolly slotted the ball into the opposite corner. Barry Moran’s third goal was the best team goal of the day, Cillian O’Connor won a dirty ball from a Michael Conroy centre on the edge of the D before a sublime lay off to Moran, who in turn did a one two with Lee Keegan before fisting the ball past Breathnach, not a pleasant sight having Barry Moran coming at you at full throttle when you are rooted to your goal line, I have experienced it at club level. Galway still would not go away and showed plenty of courage and after a brilliant run into the Mayo square by teenage star Shane Walsh, Barry Moran had no option but to haul him to the ground and get a black card for his sins. Walsh stepped up to take the penalty and hit it brilliantly, but Robbie Hennelly’s save will be hard to beat for save of the season. He got down superbly with a strong right hand to somehow sway the ball around his right hand post and out for a 45’, his joy was there for all to see with a clenched fist to the crowd. James Horan will be happy, his team have achieved a feat of four-in-a-row for the first time since 1951, but more importantly they are in the quarter finals and are on the road to Croker again, the winners of Sligo and Cork next up for the green and red.