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.
It’s a long way from the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa to Tuam Stadium in the heartland of North Galway, especially if you go via The Twickenham Stoop, the Vélez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires, and a few laps of MacHale Park in Castlebar, but Gavin Duffy has played in them all, and in doing so, has rather silently compiled one the most compelling sporting CV’s of any Irish man or woman these last two decades.
That after the event, James Horan didn’t appear exasperated by the persistent line of questioning regarding the catastrophic opening 12 minutes of the second half for Mayo suggests he too believes their All-Ireland semi-final hopes foundered in that period.
Getting the match-ups right has gone a long way for Kerry and Mayo in recent years. We think of Aidan O’Mahony on Michael Murphy in the 2014 final, Lee Keegan on Enda Smith in the 2017 All-Ireland quarter-final replay and just last weekend Patrick Durcan tagging Ryan McHugh.
In first-half injury time, with Mayo having pushed their advantage over a spluttering Donegal from two points down to six up, Fionn McDonagh hit Donegal’s Jamie Brennan with a ferocious, fair shoulder to win possession right in front of a heaving Gerry McDonald stand.
The group-deciding Super 8 encounter this evening in Castlebar has the potential to be explosive, a real old-style knockout championship game. There is no love lost between Mayo and Donegal dating back to the now infamous challenge game in 2012 and there are a lot of ifs, buts, and maybes making it a hard game to call.