Yesterday, as they stretched their 100% run in Connacht under James Horan to 11 victories, they were slightly more subdued against their great rivals if almost as clinical. This was simply about taking care of business. Whatever about this provincial competition serving them better, the same could be said for how they treat themselves now.
Their performance was an extremely mature one and possibly points to Mayo developing an ability to put victories in context now. On home soil as a fine 26,738 crowd watched on, they created a little history, but they clearly want more.
Galway weren’t as naive as that forgettable day in Salthill last year but Mayo, in execution at least, weren’t far removed from the ruthlessness they exhibited back then.
The gap between the sides, which had been seven at the interval (1-9 to 0-5), was cut to four inside the first four minutes of the second half. Even when Mayo goaled a second time in the 48th minute and went nine ahead after Jason Doherty found the net after an effective Seamus O’Shea found him, Galway came back with three points.
Rob Hennelly saved a Shane Walsh penalty in the 60th minute when Barry Moran brought down Paul Conroy, but by that stage Mayo could afford to think of Croke Park.
Barry Moran had finished Mayo’s third goal four minutes earlier after a sublime move involving Cillian O’Connor and Lee Keegan. The home side’s nine-point lead had been restored and the game was done and dusted.
Galway never managed to get to terms with Mayo in the centre, Aidan O’Shea giving a splendid display in the first half, hoovering up breaks and then in the second as a primary ball winner.
“Look it, Aidan O’Shea is a very clever player and that’s his main attribute,” said Horan. “It mightn’t always be associated with him, but he’s a very clever player, got into the right positions today and pulled what was meant to be a defensive structure asunder a little bit. That was key for us and we were able to get good ball into our inside line and Cillian showed well today.”
O’Connor had a part to play in two of three goals and sent over three points of his own to further emphasis his stature as one of the best forwards in the game.
Mayo’s control of the first half was never in doubt although Galway had more possession in the opening exchanges. The tone for the half, however, was set by Colm Boyle when he was unfairly punished by referee Rory Hickey for a crushing but fair shoulder on Damien Comer in the fifth minute. The Galway forward left the field before the end of the half, clearly smarting from the collision.
In the Leinster semi-final two weeks ago, Kildare’s Jason Ryan claimed Kevin Reilly’s strong tackle on Paddy Brophy had intimidated the rest of his forwards. Boyle’s shoulder may have had the same impact on Galway’s attack as they went into their shells for the majority of the half after the hit.
The next four scores came from Mayo. They dominated the middle, O’Shea getting his hands on so many possessions. O’Connor followed up a sixth minute point with a free from long range three minutes later.
After some endeavour by Keith Higgins, Alan Dillon added a third before Mayo’s standout performer of the first half, Kevin McLoughlin, notched his first of three before the break.
Michael Lundy, the only Galway forward to threaten at that stage, fired over their second score, their first in 15 minutes but Mayo resumed normal service a minute later when O’Connor punished a foul on Boyle.
Mayo’s midfield pair, ruling the skies, were happy to stay back and allow the half-backs bomb forward and McLoughlin was again on the scoreboard in the 20th minute after Mayo reacted quickest to a Jason Doherty shot hitting a post.
Mayo’s first goal came four minutes later when O’Connor beat Donal O’Neill in the corner and squared the ball to the onrushing Lee Keegan to palm it to the net. O’Connor smiled, recalling the goal: “Lee is very, very loud when he is coming through so he was screaming at a very high pitched voice so you can’t miss him. I was thinking I was going to put this over then I heard him screaming like a girl’s voice and I popped it off to him.”
Nine points up, Mayo weren’t exactly buzzing but they were winning the majority of the personal battles. Amidst a bevy of wides, Walsh struck over a free and Paul Conroy showed his erratic fellow inside forwards how to split the posts.
Danny Cummins, who, like Eddie Hoare, had kicked three first-half wides, finished the scoring for the half but Mayo had keep their score total ticking over with further O’Connor and McLoughlin points. They hardly relented in the action that followed.
Scorers for Mayo: C O’Connor 0-8 (5 frees); L Keegan, J Doherty (1-1 each); K McLoughlin (0-3); B Moran (1-0); A Dillon (0-1).
Scorers for Galway: S Walsh (0-7, 5 frees); P Conroy (0-4); S Armstrong (0-2); M Lundy, D Cummins, G Bradshaw (0-1 each).
MAYO: R Hennelly; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan; S O’Shea, B Moran; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, J Doherty; C O’Connor, A Moran, A Dillon.
Subs for Mayo: M Conroy for A Dillon (44); A Freeman for A Moran (52); J Gibbons for B Moran (black, 61); K Keane for C Boyle (69); D O’Connor for J Doherty (70); M Sweeney for A O’Shea (70+1).
GALWAY: M Breathnach; A Tierney, F Hanley, D O’Neill; G Bradshaw, G O’Donnell, P Varley; F Ó Curraoin, T Flynn; M Lundy, D Comer, S Walsh; P Conroy, E Hoare, D Cummins.
Subs for Galway: J Kavanagh for M Comer (inj 24); S Armstrong for D Cummins, D Burke for A Tierney (both 44); G Higgins for E Hoare (55); S O’Brien for J Lundy (61).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).
Barry Moran’s 56th-minute goal brought the game as a contest to an end. Mayo went nine up.
Talk of the town
The composure of Mayo. They looked like four-time provincial champions without playing all that brilliantly.
Did that just happen?
In kicking a 29th-minute wide, Danny Cummins’ boot flew off.
Best on show
Aidan O’Shea gave his best display since the Donegal All-Ireland quarter-final last year. Cillian O’Connor’s presence was huge while Donal Vaughan and Lee Keegan offered plenty.
Black card watch
Moran appeared to be correctly shown one in the 59th minute.
Galway had two good second-half spells but Mayo, with Aidan O’Shea supplementing his brother Seamus and Barry Moran, were too good in midfield.
The man in black
Vast majority of Rory Hickey’s calls were right.
Mayo have an All-Ireland quarter-final on the August Bank Holiday. Galway face Tipperary in a fourth round qualifier.