Galway 1-13 Mayo 0-11: The year is but a pup but already after two meetings between the old protagonists in the west, six players have been sent off and two victories for Galway against the All-Ireland finalists.
MacHale Park in Castlebar will need to expanded on May 13 if these two arch-rivals keep the momentum building up to that one.
Both managers, understandably, were adamant that this latest joust will have no bearing on that showdown in May. Try telling that to the supporters, 9,850 of whom braved the Arctic conditions at the seaside resort in Salthill yesterday.
Stephen Rochford cut his managerial teeth with Corofin in Galway before returning home to take charge of his native Mayo. This was his fourth game against the Tribesmen… and the fourth loss.
‘It’s not about me or Stephen Rochford, it’s about us getting the very best out of our own players and blend in the young fellas, do as best as we can. No better place than Division 1 to do that,” said Galway manager Kevin Walsh.
“When you’ve six points on the board out of six it’s very, very pleasing. It takes a bit of pressure off for certain parts of the league. Nothing will change from our side in relation to doing the things we want to do in every game.”
Galway, it should be remembered, are only back in the top flight for the first time in seven years. Three games in, three wins under the belt and still to concede a goal. They never trailed yesterday and never looked rattled at any stage.
They have an FBD League final against Roscommon to look forward to next weekend — Walsh said he will experiment in that one — before heading to play Kerry a week later.
Last month they had three players sent off in the closing stages of their Connacht FBD League win over Mayo in Castlebar. Yesterday Paul Conroy picked up a second yellow and then Mayo lost the O’Connor brothers during a fiery closing segment to a game where ten other players were booked in addition to the dismissals.
Cillian O’Connor got a straight red for a lunge at Eoghan Kerin. It was borne out of frustration, he apologised to the Galway defender before accepting his inevitable fate from Wicklow referee Anthony Nolan.
Younger brother Diarmuid then got his marching orders for a second yellow card during one of the many melees which erupted in the final quarter.
But despite half a dozen dismissals in their two games this year it would be incorrect to state that there is bile in the rivalry between these counties and both managers were correct to downplay the incidents.
“I’ve been asked that 100 times,” said Galway manager Walsh when asked for his views on the dismissals. “You’ve seen that more than I have, being down on the sideline I didn’t see anything. I haven’t a lot to say on it other than we don’t like to see too much of that going on. I’m still very conscious that every player who gets to wear a county jersey is going to fight for his jersey. Look, whatever happened, when the handbags started, you saw a lot more than me.”
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, hoarse from a sore throat that made him barely audible, said he didn’t get a good view of the incident which led to the dismissal of Cillian O’Connor but from what he saw and was told by colleagues, he had no complaint.
“I didn’t get a full glimpse of it but I’m led to believe that he sort of….a shoulder or something in there. Look, I think Fergal Kelly was the linesman on the spot, so you’ve got to trust the officials in that sense.”
His side never led during the encounter and managed just four points from play, three of which came from defenders. They shot nine wides to Galway’s six, didn’t open their scoring until the 13th minute and it was another seven minutes before wing-back Paddy Durcan got their first point from play.
Galway, on the other hand, were quickly out of the blocks with skipper Damien Comer landing two good frees in the opening nine minutes.
The key score of the opening half came after 18 minutes when Barry McHugh gathered a delivery from Paul Conroy, rounded Ger Cafferkey and soloed through on goal before dispatching the ball into the left corner of the net for a quality score.
Shane Walsh quickly added a free to make it 1-4 to 0-2 but Galway did not score again for the remainder of the opening half Diarmuid O’Connor following up Durcan’s effort, while a free from Cillian O’Connor in stoppage time left Mayo just two adrift at the break.
But Galway started the second-half better with points from McHugh and Johnny Heaney, before the sides exchanged three points for Galway to lead by 1-9 to 0-8 going into the final quarter.
Galway pushed for home as McHugh and Eamon Brannigan, who got three points in the second-half, found the target to lead by six.
And with the Tribesmen having not conceded a goal in the league this season, Mayo never looked like coming back to fashion a second win of the campaign.
The game disintegrated as referee Anthony Nolan struggled to keep control. Aside from the dismissals, he booked a further ten players during the game as Galway chalked up their third win and Mayo fell to a second defeat.
“It’s disappointing,” added Mayo boss Stephen Rochford. “We weren’t at the pitch of it in any shape, way or form. We lost our discipline and that is something we have to look at, the rows were borne out of frustration more than anything else. We had a chance to get a score or two early in the second half but didn’t take them and Galway came down and scored two points. And like most of the game we were playing second fiddle from there on. Visibly Galway were more up for it today.
“This game really will just have been the outliner for the championship. That’s three months away and we have a lot of work to do before that game comes around.”
Scorers for Galway:
B McHugh (1-3, 2 frees); E Brannigan (0-3); P Conroy, S Walsh (1 free), D Comer (0-2 each); J Heaney (0-1).
Scorers for Mayo:
C O’Connor (0-5 frees); K McLoughlin (f), P Durcan, J Doherty (f), D O’Connor, C Boyle, E O’Donoghue (0-1 each).
R Lavelle; D Kyne, SA O Ceallaigh, E Kerin; C Sweeney, G Bradshaw, J Heaney; P Conroy, P Cooke; S Kelly, S Walsh, E Brannigan; P Sweeney, D Comer B McHugh.
S Armstrong for P Sweeney (36), T Flynn for Cooke (60), A Varley for McHugh (70), G O’Donnell for Kelly (76), C D’Arcy for Comer (77), Johnny Duane for Bradshaw (77).
D Clarke; G Cafferkey, C Crowe, E O’Donoghue; C Boyle, P Durcan, S Coen; J Gibbons, A O’Shea; J Doherty, M Hall, D O’Connor; C Loftus, C O’Connor, K McLoughlin.
G McDonagh for Crowe (38-52), D Newcombe for Cafferkey (39-52), A Gallagher for Loftus (57), F Boland for McLoughlin (59), J Stretton for Boyle (63), S Nally for Durcan (77).
Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).
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