It started and ended with a handbags being thrown, but in the seventy odd minutes in between Mayo did what they needed to do and saw off Galway in a sun splashed Pearse Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The main man on the day for Mayo was Aidan O’Shea who put in a show stopping performance where he tormented the Galway defence for the full seventy minutes. The big Breaffy man was hauled to the ground so often in desperation by Galway defenders that his knees will be sore for a few days from the impact of landing.
Mayo did what was required but this wasn’t a performance that will have minds jumping to far into the future as Galway found plenty of holes in the Mayo backline when they went looking and better attacks will finish up with bigger returns.
Andy Moran announced his return to action with a sublime score from tight to the end line three minutes in, but not long after the Ballaghaderren man was on the deck receiving treatment, he was able to play through another half-an-hour, but he was called a shore before the break to be replaced by his fellow veteran Alan Dillon. The Ballintubber man’s involvement unfortunately didn’t last that long either as he had to be replaced five minutes after the break with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Mayo doubled their lead eight minutes in when Cillian O’Connor kicked the first of his nine points for the afternoon after Aidan O’Shea was hauled down 21 meters out. Galway got their first score form a Paul Conroy free from close range on the ten minute mark. O’Connor stretched Mayo’s lead out to two again after he converted another free after O’Shea was again fouled. Gary Sice responded for the home team shortly afterwards with a neat score form the right, before Mayo pushed themselves into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead thanks to two more O’Connor points, one from a free after O’Shea was fouled close in for the third time and the second one was a smart finish from open play after his brother Diarmuid won a slack Galway kick-out. But the Tribesmen then hit a purple patch as the Mayo kick-out faltered for a few minutes with Conroy kicking a point from a free before the busy Danny Cummins and Damien Comer kicked points from play as the game past the half hour stage.
Andy Moran put Mayo back into the lead after Keith Higgins pulled off a heroic block on a Cummins shot and then charged down he field with the ball before finding O’Shea who set up Moran who applied a crisp finish from close range. Another O’Connor free stretched the gap out to two points when O’Shea was again taken down by Finian Hanley within scoring range. As the game edged towards the median whistle, Galway got a break in the middle of the park and Conroy found Gary Sice who broke towards goal at pace, leaving one Mayo defender on their backside and he unleashed a rocket of a shot past David Clarke, giving the Ballina man no chance and put Galway into the lead for the only time in the contest. Mayo regrouped and another O’Connor free sent the sides in level at the break.
Mayo didn’t wait long in the changing room at half time and were out on the field a few minutes before the hosts returned. It was case as same as it ever was with Aidan O’Shea being fouled as he tried to break for goal and O’Connor covering the free to put Mayo back into the lead inside the first minute.
Less than 60 seconds later Mayo got the break they needed to open out a game winning advantage. That man O’Shea again barrelled towards goal, the ball was dislodged from his possession and bounced around the danger area. Manus Breathnach lashed on the ball on the deck, but it flew straight into the body of Finian Hanley and both men were helpless as the ball rebounded into the back of the their own net to put Mayo into a 1-9 to 1-5 lead. Another O’Connor free and one from play from Aidan O’Shea stretched the gap out to six points before five minutes had gone in the first half. Conroy got Galway back on the scoreboard with a pointed free eleven minutes in which was responded to shortly afterwards by Jason Doherty. Conroy went for an early shower after he was shown a black card on the 50 minute mark as the game looked to be petering out to an uneventful conclusion. But Galway had a kick still left in them and when Danny Cummins found the back of the net with a close range palmed effort and Gary Sice kicked over a free, Mayo’s six point lead was cut back to two with the home crowd feeling hopeful.
But Mayo picked up the pace and Mark Roaldson swept over a point and Seamus O’Shea chipped in with one to put down the Galway rebellion before it got going. O’Connor and Sice both kicked a point each for their sides as the game went down the home straight, which saw both sides reduced to 14 men with Hanley getting black card to go with the yellow he was shown in the first half and then Lee Keegan getting a second yellow after a pointless bout of shape throwing in injury time that saw most of the players involved in pushing and shoving.
I Mayo move on and award the winners of Sligo and Roscommon next weekend in the Connacht final on July 19, but there’s lots of work to be still done if they are to make it five Connacht titles on the bounce.
Scores: Mayo: C O’Connor (0-9, 8f ), A Moran (0-2 ), A O’Shea (0-1 ), S O’Shea (0-1 ), M Ronaldson (0-1 ), J Doherty (0-1 ), F Hanley (1-0, OG )
Galway: G Sice (1-3, 2f ), D Cummins (1-1 ), P Conroy (0-3, 3f ), D Comer (0-1 )
Mayo: D Clarke; T Cunniffe, K Higgins, K Keane; C Barrett, L Keegan, C Boyle; S O’Shea T Parsons; J Doherty, A O’Shea, K McLoughlin; A Moran C O’Connor, D O’Connor. Subs: A Dillon for A Moran (33 ), M Ronaldson for A Dillon (40 ), D Vaughan for C Boye (51 ), G Cafferkey for K Keane (55 ), B Moran for T Parsons (65 ), A Freeman for C O’Connor (69 )
Galway: M Breanathnach; J Duane, F Hanley, C Sweeney; L Silke, G O’Donnell, S Dever; F O’Curraoin, P Conroy; G Sice, P Sweeney, T Flynn; D Cummins, D Comer, M Lundy. Subs: P O’Griofa for P Conroy (BC, 50 ), E Hoare for T Flynn (56 ), G Bradshaw for L Silke (56 ), A Varley for P Sweeney (69 ).