Between them they have competed in the last three All-Ireland finals. Saturday night’s draw reflected the state of play once again. Galway and Mayo are close and contenders.
It finished 1-11 to 2-8 in an entertaining league opener played out in front of 13,654 satisfied spectators at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park. For former Mayo player and manager James Horan, it was another reminder of the progress their rivals have made.
Horan brought Mayo to four All-Ireland finals during his two terms, 2012, 2013, 2020 and 2021. He also won six Connacht titles and one Allianz National Football League. In six championship fixtures against Galway, he only lost once.
Speaking on the Irish Examiner Gaelic football show in partnership with Allianz, Horan said Galway’s young players impressed him on Saturday night.
“The talk was Mayo had a young and inexperienced team out on Saturday but so had Galway when you weigh things up. While Pádraic Joyce, in Pádraic’s unique style, will be cross after the game in how they didn’t win it, he will be very happy with some of the debutants and some of the senior guys.
“Damien Comer, he is such a threat in the air. He has really good hands. Overall, he will be happy. They have very good young players coming through like Jack Glynn.
"Cian O’Neill was with us, Kerry, Tipperary, Kildare. He is highly qualified and knows what is needed around high performance. Him joining the backroom team and the work of (chairperson) Paul Bellew, they have definitely got their stuff together.
“Down through the years, we felt we had the edge on them physically, from an S&C point of view and prep. We used that as a strength of ours. But they have caught up.”
Horan went on to shine a light on the relations between intercounty managers when asked about the Galway’s boss’s approach.
“Pádraic is his own man. Very frank in how he deals with the media and interviews after the game. I always find them interesting. He reminds me of Davy Fitz a bit, ‘I’m not going to say this’ and then he does say it. Look, what the GAA needs is characters and people who are unique and authentic.”
Are they friendly?
“I wouldn’t say friendly. We had a lot of battles through the years in management. I suppose we won most of the important games so maybe that didn’t put me on his Christmas card list. I don’t know how many intercounty managers are friendly.”
What of the others?
“Jack (O’Connor) would be a good fella to deal with. After I retired, one of the first calls I got was from Jack wishing me well. Colm Collins is a guy I have huge respect for and great time for. We always sneaked down to Clare early in the season for a couple of challenge games. We’ve done that for years because they are very honest, really well-organised team and Colm is a great guy to deal with. We do that away from the crowd.
"You’d know the other managers. I roomed with Glenn Ryan in Australia on a trip in 1999. There are connections through football there. You’d be in touch with some and there are obviously managers in the heat of battle you mightn’t say that much to them after a game.
"I think Colm O'Rourke will do really well with Meath. He was over that team in '99. At meetings and training, as manager, I thought he was really really good on that. The way he talked to the players, the way he went about things. So I'm going to follow his progress with real interest."