Mayo 1-12 Galway 1-06
Mayo outscored Galway by 1-8 to 0-1 in the second half as they battled their way through to next month’s Connacht SFC final.
The miserable weather conditions in Castlebar were matched by the shocking standard of football, in a game blighted by nervy passages of play, poor tackling and wasteful shooting.
But Mayo, who were 1-5 to 0-4 behind at half-time, raised their game sufficiently enough after the break with all six of their starting forward scoring and substitutes Ronan McGarrity and Enda Varley also chipping in with points.
Full-forward Alan Freeman led the scoring with 1-2, including a 58th-minute goal that moved Mayo back in front at 1-9 to 1-6.
Galway, in their first appearance in this year’s Championship, gave away a huge amount of possession and Owen Concannon kicked their only point of the second half.
The first 35 minutes were hugely disappointingly, with Mayo putting away just four of their 17 scoring chances. Gallingly for the forwards, goalkeeper Robert Hennelly was their top scorer with two placed balls.
The Tribesmen had four points from their free-taker Cormac Bane and one from Padraic Joyce, and Paul Conroy’s 34th-minute goal was essentially the difference between the sides at the interval.
There were wayward early shots from Joyce and Mayo captain Alan Dillon as the sides struggled to judge a swirling wind, with an untimely rain shower adding to the difficulty.
Dillon missed again after taking a free short and getting a return pass from Trevor Mortimer, and Hennelly was called upon to open the scoring in the eighth minute.
From another left-sided free, he drew a huge cheer when he floated the ball through the posts, but Bane levelled for Galway with a peach of a free two minutes later.
Joyce, in his 61st Championship appearance, enjoyed a titanic tussle with Keith Higgins and he created a gilt-edged opportunity for Gary O’Donnell. Joyce’s handpass played the wing back in, but he blasted his shot high and to the left of Mayo’s goal.
Bane knocked over his second free and the game’s first point from play arrived in the 14th minute, Mayo corner forward Jason Doherty swinging it over from the right.
It was an error-strewn first half played in a subdued atmosphere, with both sides let down by misplaced passes and a failure to take their scoring chances.
Andy Moran hit Mayo’s seventh wide after Hennelly dropped a ‘45’ in towards the Galway square, and a loose pass from Mortimer led to Bane clipping over his first point from play.
The mistakes continued as Hennelly slipped when taking a ‘45’ and his opposite number Adrian Faherty blundered when conceding another ‘45’ near the edge of his square.
A second success from Hennelly drew Mayo level but Galway, despite struggling in midfield, were slightly more clinical in attack. Garreth Bradshaw teed up Joyce for a lovely left-footed score from a tight angle.
In between mis-hit frees from Dillon and Aidan O’Shea, Conroy was held back and drew a free which Bane pointed. Former captain Mortimer broke forward from his wing back position to grab a well-taken point off his left.
Hennelly was off target with a long range free and then came Galway’s goal, some indecision in the Mayo defence allowing Conroy to anticipate the break and although he could not scoop up the ball, his shot off the goal flew into the net.
In an incident that will come in for further scrutiny, Mayo corner back Higgins was very fortunate to get away with just a yellow card after raising his right fist and connecting with the side of Mark Hehir’s head.
The rain continued into the second half, however Mayo showed an immediate improvement and three points in six minutes had the deficit back to 1-05 to 0-07.
Dillon knocked over a close range free and Andy Moran provided the assists for the next two white flags. His pass inside gave Freeman a sight of goal but Faherty parried his shot over the crossbar.
Cillian O’Connor then got on the scoresheet as the intensity increased and the decibel level was raised by the home support. Kevin McLoughlin, with the wind behind him, drilled over the levelling point in the 46th minute.
The O’Sheas, Aidan and Seamus, were having more joy under the Galway kickouts and Moran popped over his first point, getting onto the rebound from an O’Connor shot that Faherty saved.
Galway’s wides tally mounted as Bradshaw, substitute Diarmuid Blake and Concannon all missed the target and as the Mayo defence lived dangerously, Concannon grazed the crossbar with a shot that should have rippled the net.
Still, the visitors were only on level terms for a short while as Mayo moved back ahead on the hour mark courtesy of Freeman’s goal.
The lively Moran was the creator, hand-passing through for Freeman to dart away from his marker and place a measured low shot past Faherty at his near post.
A careless free from Greg Higgins gave possession straight back to Mayo and Freeman’s second point of the afternoon made it 1-10 to 1-6.
Joyce and substitute Michael Meehan were foiled by Mayo’s hard-hitting defence and a tremendous point from the returning McGarrity from right under the stand effectively confirmed the result.
Varley had an injury-time effort tipped over the bar by Faherty, stretching the winning margin to six points.
So, after struggling to see off London and putting in a topsy-turvy display against Galway, Mayo are through to face reigning champions Roscommon in the Connacht decider on Sunday, July 17.
Scorers: Mayo: A Freeman 1-2, R Hennelly 0-2 (0-1f, 0-1 ‘45’), J Doherty, T Mortimer, A Dillon (0-1f), C O’Connor, K McLoughlin, A Moran, R McGarrity, E Varley 0-1 each
Galway: C Bane 0-4 (0-3f), P Conroy 1-0, P Joyce, O Concannon 0-1 each
MAYO: Robert Hennelly; Tom Cunniffe, Alan Feeney, Keith Higgins; Richie Feeney, Donal Vaughan, Trevor Mortimer; Seamus O'Shea, Aidan O'Shea; Kevin McLoughlin, Alan Dillon, Andy Moran; Cillian O'Connor, Alan Freeman, Jason Doherty.
Subs used: Ronan McGarrity for S O’Shea (63 mins), Enda Varley for O’Connor (65), Peadar Gardiner for McLoughlin (70+1).
GALWAY: Adrian Faherty; Alan Burke, Colin Forde, Johnny Duane; Gary O'Donnell, Greg Higgins, Gary Sice; Joe Bergin, Finian Hanley; Owen Concannon, Mark Hehir, Garreth Bradshaw; Padraic Joyce, Paul Conroy, Cormac Bane.
Subs used: Diarmuid Blake for Hehir (46 mins), Matthew Clancy for Conroy (51), Michael Meehan for Bane (56), Danny Cummins for Sice (68).
Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare)