(Galway won 3-2 on pens)
For the second year in a row, penalties were required to separate these age-old rivals in the FBD Connacht League and history also repeated itself in terms of the outcome as Galway edged past their neighbours on a bitterly cold day in Castlebar.
More than 7,000 people turned up to watch two experimental line-ups engage in some shadow boxing and they were kept entertained for more than 90 minutes in what turned out to be a marathon affair.
This was due to lengthy stoppages after Galway’s Johnny Heaney and Fiontán Ó Curraoin sustained head injuries in separate incidents which led to them being withdrawn.
The game was halted for 12 minutes following Ó Curraoin’s accidental clash early in the second half with a Mayo player and Galway manager Padraig Joyce confirmed afterwards that he had been removed to hospital for a precautionary scan.
“He’s in recovery at the hospital so hopefully he’ll be fine,” said Joyce, who added that Heaney had also been taken off with a ‘concussion injury’.
The eventful and drawn-out game had finished 1-17 apiece after Galway recovered from being six points down with 15 minutes left to earn a draw, with Adrian Varley’s goal and Liam Costello’s last-gasp equaliser in the 50th minute of the half proving invaluable.
The subsequent penalty shoot-out finished 3-2 in Galway’s favour after Tom Flynn netted before Mayo’s Bryan Walsh saw his effort crash off the post and wide.
Shane Walsh and Damien Comer had earlier also goaled for Galway while Liam Irwin and Kevin McLoughlin were Mayo’s only scorers from the spot.
“It was a draw really but we’ll take the penalty shoot-out [win],” smiled Padraig Joyce afterwards. “It’s an unfortunate way to decide a game but rules is rules. I wouldn’t be a fan of it really, it’s unfair that players have to step up. That’s for a different sport in my eyes not for this sport.
“The most pleasing factor for the day was that we were six points down, looked dead and buried, but the lads stuck at it and won a great ball back at the end,” he continued.
“The lads did well to work it down the field and Liam Costello got an equaliser. They did well. They worked hard, never gave up. Down through the years Galway would have been seen as a team with a soft belly. So at least they showed great character which is pleasing.”
James Horan would have been forgiven for thinking of a rare FBD League Final appearance next weekend when Mayo surged 1-16 to 0-13 up heading into 12 minutes of added time.
Kevin McLoughlin’s clever flicked goal and a string of points from Brian Reape and Fergal Boland had left the home side in complete control. Or so we thought.
“I’m disappointed with the result, the way it went,” conceded the Mayo manager.
“But there was lots of stuff from the game that we’ll take. The result is only element to be honest at this stage of the year.
“It was disappointing to be six [points] up with ten [minutes] to go and not to close it out, but I thought some of the performances of some of our new guys today were exceptional.
Padraig O’Hora, Jordan Flynn, Bryan Walsh, in particular, I thought were very good.”
Galway will now play Roscommon in the final next Saturday at 2pm.
GALWAY: C Gleeson; C Murray, G O’Donnell, J Heaney; E Branigan, J Daly, C McDaid; T Flynn, F Ó Curraoin; P Kelly, M Daly (0-2), M Boyle (0-1); A Varley (1-3, 1f), S Walsh (0-9, 6fs), P Conroy (0-1).
Subs: J Duane for Heaney (inj, 20); M Barrett for O Curraoin (inj, 40); L Costello (0-1) for P Kelly; D Comer for M Daly (70); S Kelly for Branigan (75).
MAYO: R Hennelly; J Stretton, J McCormack, B Harrison; P O’Hora, M Plunkett, P Durcan; T Parsons (0-1), M Murray; B Walsh (0-3), C Loftus (0-2, 2fs), J Flynn (0-2); K McLoughlin (1-2), B Reape (0-5, 1f), D O’Connor.
Subs: F Boland (0-2) for Loftus (57); C Boyle for Stretton (60); G Boylan for O’Connor (71); L Irwin for Reape (77); D Kenny for McCormack (78).
Referee: P Guckian (Leitrim)