Galway will be bidding to avoid losing three Connacht finals in a row for the first time in the modern era when they take on Mayo at Croke Park on Sunday.
It has not happened to them since 1937 when Mayo defeated them three years running — but Galway book-ended the losses with All-Ireland triumphs in 1934 and ’38, while the Green and Red also brought the Sam Maguire Cup west for the first time in 1936.
It’s now 20 years since the trophy was brought back to Connacht, when Galway triumphed in 2001, and while manager Pádraic Joyce would love to lead them to victory having twice won All-Irelands as a player, he places huge stock on provincial crowns.
“Other people might frown upon the provincial championships at the minute but it’s a huge occasion for us. We’ve great rivalry with Mayo. It’s a healthy rivalry and there’s never much in it in the championship, the kick of a ball and we’re expecting the same again on Sunday.”
Joyce is glad the game has been moved from MacHale Park in Castlebar to Croke Park with almost 13,000 tickets sold by yesterday, with a further 5,000 available under Covid rules for Sunday.
“Castlebar is the same size field, obviously the stands are bigger in Croke Park and it’s a bit further up the road but we don’t mind where we play as it will allow both sets of supporters watch their teams play after the year and a half that they have all had.”
This will only be Joyce’s third championship match since he took over from Kevin Walsh in 2019. His first was in the Connacht final last year when Mayo pipped them by a point and Joyce is confident his own young guns are ready to let rip.
“It’ll definitely help, that bit of experience. But Mayo have won it, our lads haven’t won it. We’d be hoping our lads have a bit more hunger for it when the time comes around again.
“Mayo have a young team but we have nine under the age of 22. Both teams have great young players coming through. It’s great to see, they bring great enthusiasm and energy around the place.”
Joyce won six Connacht titles and also played in four more finals during his career and would dearly love to collect his first as a manager next Sunday.
“The lads have worked hard and we’re really looking forward to Sunday,” he added.