Tribe are left to wander in the dark

RARELY in the long and storied history of this age-old rivalry has the result been so important at such a relatively early stage in the season.

Both sides had an awful lot to lose on a dark, dreary and overcast afternoon in McHale Park, Castlebar yesterday and that fact will not be lost on Galway this week as they contemplate an All-Ireland qualifier game against Meath.

Mayo, meanwhile, return to training tomorrow night with a spring in their step as they prepare for their first Connacht final showdown with Roscommon since 2004.

There was no disputing the merit of their 38th victory over their oldest rivals; Mayo dominated the midfield exchanges throughout and, despite falling behind to a 34th-minute goal from Paul Conroy, they overpowered their opponents impressively in the second half.

The tide turned on Alan Freeman’s goal on 57 minutes and a string of unanswered points from Freeman and substitutes Ronan McGarrity and Enda Varley, pushed Mayo on to a victory that was as comprehensive as it was deserved.

A large portion of the crowd of just over 20,000 people were on their way home when the final whistle sounded as Mayo freewheeled across the finish line and Galway chased a late goal in vain.

The chastened visitors managed just one point in the entire second half (an effort from Eoin Concannon on 54 minutes that could, and really should, have been a goal) and they looked a beaten docket long before the end.

On this evidence they have a lot of soul-searching to do before their next assignment on July 9.

In truth, Tomás Ó Flatharta would have been relieved to see his team leading at the halfway mark, by 1-5 to 0-4, after failing to win their fair share of ball at midfield.

On a soft day in greasy conditions, both sides struggled to find their rhythm in the opening half and there was no shortage of unforced errors, misplaced passes and basic mistakes.

Mayo, in particular, were experiencing the yips up front with Alan Dillon and Aidan O’Shea both missing a number of kickable frees, while goalkeeper Robert Hennelly converted a long-range free and a 45 but was also off-target with a few more.

However, even with a stiff breeze behind them, Galway weren’t setting the world on fire either. In fact, apart from three confidently-struck frees from Cormac Bane and a neat effort from play, they seldom threatened Mayo’s revamped defence.

Padraic Joyce did escape from Keith Higgins’ shackles once to post a trademark angled score but the 34-year-old corner-forward struggled to impose himself on the game when the pace quickened.

Approaching half time, due mainly to Mayo’s malfunctioning forward division, Galway led by 0-5 to 0-4.

However Paul Conroy’s soccer-style goal, which came against the run of play after a long ball broke into his path, opened up some clear daylight between the sides for the first time.

Unfortunately for Galway it turned out to be a false dawn as they were made to look very ordinary from there to the finish.

The Tribesmen were outplayed, outmuscled around the middle, and, most importantly, outscored by 1-8 to 0-1 after the restart as Mayo made the most of a favourable wind.

With the O’Shea brothers, Aidan and Seamus, eclipsing their high-profile direct opponents, Joe Bergin and Finian Hanley, and Alan Dillon and Andy Moran cleaning up on the breaks, possession was never a problem for the eventual winners.

Their half-back line of Richie Feeney, Donal Vaughan and Trevor Mortimer were also dominant with the previously heavily criticised Vaughan, in particular, driving forward at every opportunity.

Alan Dillon (free), Alan Freeman and Cillian O’Connor all nailed early second-half points before Kevin McLoughlin slotted over the equaliser on 45 minutes.

Man of the match Andy Moran then nudged Mayo ahead four minutes later and we awaited a shell-shocked Galway’s response. When Eoin Concannon spooned over the levelling point it seemed like Galway might make a game of it.

Instead, Mayo mustered up a big last quarter and reeled off 1-3 without reply to get the job done.

Bigger tests lie ahead but this was more than enough for now.

Scorers for Mayo: A Freeman 1-2; R Hennelly 0-2 (1f, 1 45); J Doherty, T Mortimer, A Dillon (1f), C O’Connor, K McLoughlin, A Moran, R McGarrity, E Varley 0-1 each.

Scorers for Galway: C Bane 0-4 (3f); P Conroy 1-0; P Joyce, E Concannon 0-1 each.

Subs for Mayo: R McGarrity for S O’Shea (62), E Varley for O’Connor (64), P Gardiner for McLoughlin (70).

Subs for Galway: D Blake for Hehir (45), M Clancy for Conroy (50), M Meehan for Bane (56), D Cummins for Sice (67).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).

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