Mayo suffered a comprehensive and confidence shattering defeat to Galway in Pearse Stadium in what can only be described as “The battle of Salthill” after some very unsavoury incidents at the end of what had largely been a very timid affair.
It was a nightmare to officiate for referee Anthony Nolan who ended up issuing 15 yellow and three red cards. Two of those yellow cards issued to the wrong players when he singled out Kevin McLoughlin and Johnny Heaney instead of Paddy Durcan and Sean Kelly. He mistook the wrong no 10 and 7 from each team.
First things first, we have to call a spade a spade, and Cillian O'Connor deserved a straight red card for a high elbow on corner back Eoghan Kerin. Less than a minute later his brother Diarmuid received a second yellow for a very high tackle of the same player and deservedly so. No matter how staunch a Mayo supporter you are you can have no complaints about the two sending offs.
The unsightly fracas that took place at the end can be largely apportioned to two things. The attraction of Galway players to Aidan O'Shea and their manhandling of him off the ball, and secondly Galway midfielder Paul Conroy has a lot to answer for as he had a major role to play in the two rows that took place at the end, the first of which had up to 28 players involved.
Rough and tumble
The first fracas occurred after Sean Andy O'Ceallaigh and Aidan O'Shea were tussling on the ground, things escalated as players piled in. The footage of Conroy dragging O'Shea like a rag doll out of the ruck not the most sporting thing I have witnessed on a football field. I had a somewhat difference of opinion with former Galway midfielder Barry Cullinane at half time as to whether O'Ceallaigh should be still on the field after deliberately pulling down Kevin McLoughlin in the first half, for me it was a definite black card, not so for Barry who insisted Cillian O'Connor should have received a black card for deliberately body checking O'Ceallaigh just after.
O'Ceallaigh fell like he had been taken out by a sniper. Cullinane accused me of wearing blinkers, I thought he was, maybe we both were. The second rumpus occurred after Cillian O'Connor blazed a shot wide under extreme pressure from the Galway defence, not happy with not conceding a point Conroy followed O'Connor out the field berating him for his miss only to shoulder him in the back when referee Anthony Nolan had his back turned, another melee ensued. Conroy got caught by the linesman as being the instigator and rightfully received his marching orders after a second yellow card. He should have more discipline for an experienced player and ruined what was an otherwise brilliant second half display from him.
A bit of football in the middle
Somewhere in the middle of all this there was a football match to contend with as there were two crucial points and bragging rights up for grabs. The stark reality is that Mayo were overwhelmingly beaten by a slicker and much more pumped Galway team. It was almost like they were hell bent on exerting revenge for the humiliating defeat Mayo inflicted on them in 2013.
We can blame Mayo's late start in preparing for this years league campaign and of course we have to number for the amount of personnel missing, but worryingly, nobody new is standing out that could make a difference to our championship team. It looks like we are going to be going into the 2018 championship with the same personnel as last year.
Mayo's failure to break through a blanket defence is a stark contrast to what Dublin are capable of doing. Add to that, the lack of pace from some players when retreating to cover space after the ball is turned over is another alarming facet to say the least. Eamon Brannigan scored three second half points the last day on the counterattack without anyone laying a finger on him, he even had time to show off some swanky soccer skills in the process.
Plenty of time for things to come right
Things are just not happening right now for our forward division, again only a single point from play for the second league game in a row from any forward. On a positive note (yes there are some ), Galway were always going to be well prepared and extremely fit for an assault at maintaining their division status. In contrast Mayo have struggled in early league games, and entered the last game of the league the last number of years fighting for their lives because of their gruelling schedule the previous year. Remember the brilliant start Roscommon made in division one two years ago, their championship suffered greatly as a result. There is nothing to be won in February, Mayo are in it for the long haul.