Mayo made it five wins in a row in Salthill last Sunday against Galway in the first real test of the Holmes and Connelly era with a bit to spare. While the gap was only four points at full time whistle in reality, Mayo always had the Tribesmen fended off apart from a brief period at the tail end of the first-half that culminated with Gary Sice's thunderbolt of a goal.
There will be plenty of time for Holmes and Connelly to work out the kinks in the performance ahead of the Connacht final against either Sligo or Roscommon on Sunday, July 19. With club championship action taking the players attention for the next two weekends, they will be hoping that their squad come through the next few weekends without any injury concerns to add to the ones picked up by Andy Moran and Alan Dillon during the encounter that forced both veterans to leave the action early.
The inclusion of Moran was one of the major talking points before the game, but the Ballaghaderreen man proved he was worth his place, by slotting over two nicely taken points from play and right from the off winning a close range free inside the opening two minutes, which set the tempo for the rest of the game in Mayo's attack.
Galway's inability to stop fouling Mayo in attack was one of the foundation blocks to their downfall. They fouled Mayo 29 times during the 70 minutes with the quite a lot them coming inside their own half. Aidan O'Shea's hulking performance won him the man of the match award and the Galway defence was no match for the power of the Breaffy man. He was fouled eight times in the game with five of those fouls being converted by Cillian O'Connor for points from frees, four times in the first half and once in the second half. He also scored a point from play, it was his run that caused Finian Hanley to put the ball through his own net and set up Andy Moran for his second point of the game. It was quite the big afternoon for O'Shea, who was also fouled twice in the closing stages by Galway players as Mayo looked to close out the game after he'd moved back to the middle of the park.
The selection of Tom Parsons to partner Seamus O'Shea in the middle of the park also paid dividends for Mayo with the duo getting the better of their Galway counter parts for long periods of the game, Mayo won 12 of their own kickouts and eight of Galway's over the seventy minutes. While they lost only five of their own kick-outs to Galway men. Although for two of the Mayo kick-outs that Galway emerged with possession from in the 20th and 21st minute in the first half, they were returned for points from Danny Cummins and Damien Comer almost immediately something that will be worked on over the next few weeks.
The registering of just seven scores from play over the seventy minutes is something that Holmes and Connelly will want to see improved upon over the next four weekends, but seven of O'Connor's pointed frees coming from in and around the D area, if O'Shea wasn't fouled when he was, he would have been in a good position to convert the vast majority of those into scores himself one would assume. Mayo only kicked five wides in the contest with O'Connor's first ranging finding effort from a free missing the target along with a 45' being sliced wide in the first half. While Mark Ronaldson was off key with an effort not long after being introduced as he found his way back to the pace of inter-county championship football after a lengthy absence, with Lee Keegan and Diarmuid O'Connor both missing one each from difficult positions.
The Mayo defence is a work in progress still, with just four of the back seven (including goalkeeper ) who started in their last championship outing last August, starting last Sunday. Out went Hennelly, Cafferkey and Vaughan, with Clarke, Barrett and Keane coming in. Keegan was used to tie up the star man Michael Lundy from the All Ireland club champions Corofin, and he did that with aplomb. It may take away the rampaging forward part of his game, but the physical battle is something that Keegan is well capable of doing and dominating most attackers in the country. Donal Vaughan was sprung from the bench with great effect, when he replaced Colm Boyle with 20 minutes to go. The Ballinrobe man's athleticism and pace was used to break the back of any potential Galway fight back down the home stretch as he broke from defence on a number of occasions to work the ball quickly down field. If Vaughan is going to be held in reserve by the management team, he could be a very effective game breaker, when sides are tiring down the track and he enters the fray with fresh legs and and full engine.
All in all there was plenty for Holmes and Connelly to be happy with from last Sunday and plenty more for them to work on over the coming weeks. Roll on July 19 and a crack at a fifth Connacht title on the trot.