‘Fortress Castlebar’ sacked

Saturday night brought further evidence — not that much more was needed — that the balance of power in Connacht football has unmistakably shifted in recent seasons.

‘Fortress Castlebar’ sacked


Saturday night brought further evidence — not that much more was needed — that the balance of power in Connacht football has unmistakably shifted in recent seasons.

Mayo are no longer masters of all they survey in the west, and that was made very clear again as Galway ground out their seventh successive win over their neighbours in all competitions in front of 10,675 captivated souls.

The fact that this latest success was achieved in Castlebar, a ground that James Horan was determined to turn into ‘a fortress’ again, will only add to Galway’s sense of satisfaction.

This was their fourth time to win on Mayo’s home patch in less than three years, and the reigning Connacht champions have forgotten what it’s like to lose this derby.

They only trailed in this latest renewal for less than a minute, dealt remarkably well with losing two players to black cards in less than 60 seconds during the first half, and they held their nerve in the closing stages after seeing a seven point lead pared back to the bare minimum.

“We were under pressure in the second half, conditions were difficult, we’re used to that in Salthill,” Galway’s experienced captain, Gary O’Donnell, who has played in every single league game since Kevin Walsh took over back in 2015, said.

“We were very disappointed with the Kerry match, probably the first half in particular,” he added. “We knew we had a lot more in us, and we worked on a lot of things during the week.

“I think a lot of those things came to fruition today.” Danny Cummins’ crucial goal in the 25th minute was scored while both Michael Daly and Barry McHugh were in the sin-bin, and was created by a brilliant defence-splitting pass from the excellent Antaine O Laoi.

It left Galway ahead by 1-6 to 0-3, with the gale-force wind behind them, and Mayo’s failure to score for the final 22 minutes of the half underlined some familiar issues.

In fact, all they could muster up in that opening period were three frees from Jason Doherty and Galway deservedly led by seven points at the interval.

Some of their shooting from long-range was sublime with Michael Daly, Antaine O Laoi, Johnny Heaney and Shane Walsh (free) all harnessing the wind impressively.

Mayo did get their act together during the third quarter, returning to the power-plays that have served them so well in the past, and landing seven of the eight points during that period.

Six of them arrived in quick succession during a dazzling 15 minute spell as Matthew Ruane, Darren Coen, substitute Andy Moran and free-taker Jason Doherty, who hit the target four times, all chipped in.

By the 55th minute there was only a point between the sides (1-8 to 0-10) and Mayo were closing in fast.

But Galway managed to get their second wind, rebooted their defensive system, and held the homeside scoreless for 20 minutes.

For the second week in a row, Mayo’s shot selection and general approach in front of goal was hit and miss, with 11 wides spoiling some decent approach work.

They also conceded a few frees down the home straight that allowed Shane Walsh to clip a hat-trick of scores that pushed Galway out of reach again.

It meant late points in stoppage time from Diarmuid O’Connor and Donal Vaughan were merely token gestures.

James Horan couldn’t hide his disappointment and frustration afterwards.

“Yeah, I thought we could have [won the game], we obviously didn’t, but we could have. We were in a strong position with 15 minutes to go, we had a couple of frees that we missed and we had a lot of momentum, Galway were struggling a bit.

“They broke momentum, they slowed the game down, they got a couple of frees, our discipline let us down a little bit, and they ran out winners in the end.

“We’d an awful lot of shots in the second half that we obviously missed,” he added. “We were sluggish in the first half but we still had that game there.

“We could have ran out winners, but we didn’t and we need to look at why and work on them.” They have two weeks to circle the wagons before taking on Kerry in Tralee while Galway will be preparing for another local derby with the arrival of Roscommon to Salthill.

Scorers for Galway: S Walsh (0-5, 5fs), D Cummins (1-2), A O Laoi (0-2), J Heaney (0-1), M Daly (0-1).

Scorers for Mayo: J Doherty (0-7, 6fs), M Ruane (0-1), D Vaughan (0-1), D O’Connor (0-1), D Coen (0-1), A Moran (0-1, mark).


R Lavelle; E Kerin, SA O’Ceallaigh, D Wynne; G O’Donnell, J Daly, J Heaney (0-1); T Flynn, C Duggan; M Daly (0-1), D Cummins (1-2, one mark), O Cooke; B McHugh, S Walsh (0-5, five frees), A Ó Laoí (0-2).


D Clarke; C Barrett, D Harrison, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, S Coen; M Ruane (0-1), D Vaughan (0-1); F McDonagh, A O’Shea, D O’Connor (0-1); J Durcan, D Coen (0-1), J Doherty (0-7, six frees).

Substitutes Galway: F O Laoi for McHugh (HT); G Bradshaw for Flynn (HT); E Brannigan for Cummins (54); P Cunningham for A O Laoi (71).

Mayo Subs: K McLoughlin for Durcan (HT); A Moran (0-1, mark) for S Coen (48); B Reape for McDonagh (69).

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

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