Not good for the heart for either set of supporters. Relief was the overriding emotion for the Galway contingent yesterday afternoon.
Sweet relief but relief all the same considering how the team was left hanging on at the end.
We will get to the positives but first let’s discuss Galway’s kick-out strategy. I wonder was it a tactical decision, was Rory Lavelle told to kick short because in the first half it put the team under so much pressure. Of Mayo’s 1-5 in the first half, about 1-2 originated from kick-outs.
When Galway had Paul Conroy, Thomas Flynn and Fiontán Ó Curraoin in the middle to give them the height advantage to go with the wind, logic dictated they go long.
Lavelle is young and inexperienced and fair play to him for sticking to his guns when the crowd were shouting at him to kick longer. But eventually, he did go for distance with a couple but the message should have been sent in quicker.
In the second half, when Galway had the numerical advantage, his kicks improved, but Mayo still could have put a hand in for one or two. And later in the second half, two kicks went straight to Aidan O’Shea and Mayo were able to launch attacks.
That was more Conroy and Ó Curraoin’s fault for not splitting to take O’Shea out of the game.
It would have been sickening for Galway had Mayo snatched a result. And Galway had Johnny Heaney’s two fantastic saves to thank.
The backs, though, were in general good. However, it was noticeable in the first half that when Galway played defensive there was no sweeper, unlike Mayo at the other end.
That led to two-on-twos and one-on-ones and you were asking yourself where Galway’s extra player was.
Andy Moran and Cillian O’Connor won nearly every ball that was put their way in the first half although Declan Kyne and Cathal Sweeney were able to get touches in.
They were dangerous tactics but at least in the second half Heaney was able to help out and Mayo’s forwards, other than Kevin McLoughlin, never really threatened. I thought it was a mistake by the Mayo management to withdraw McLoughlin.
He was causing untold trouble and Liam Silke was giving him far too much room. McLoughlin might have run out of steam but it looked a bad substitution.
Galway may also have done more to capitalise on the predictability of the Mayo kick-out in the first half. They were kicking all of them short to a pocket to the left-hand side of David Clarke’s goal.
It may have been agreed to let Mayo win their restarts but when Galway pushed up they were winning balls and forced turnovers. If Mayo had been forced long earlier, the margin of victory might have been greater.
At least two points in the second half came from Galway pushing up but then they also allowed Patrick Durcan to shoot from distance when it was obvious Mayo were going to try their luck from long-range.
In the second half, Gary O’Donnell twice failed with shots. He hit one straight at Clarke when the wiser option was to fist a point. A forward in that situation would never have taken on the shot.
Seán Armstrong kicked over the resultant 45 but then O’Donnell had another shot and though Damien Comer caught it Galway then lost the scoring chance.
Galway must be complimented for remaining patient. There is plenty of room for more adventure and there was some stupid ball kicked in. But there was also decent chest-high supply into Armstrong, who had a great game.
However, I maintain Galway could be a much bigger threat if Comer and Shane Walsh stayed closer to goal. Comer, if he was able to stay on his feet more, could be absolutely lethal.
Two big hits helped to define this game. In the 28th minute, Paul Conroy flattened Seamie O’Shea and he never really recovered. Comer measured up Diarmuid O’Connor for a great shoulder late on and he had to go off.
Galway fans will have been delighted to see that the more experienced team weren’t allowed to bully them. They weren’t permitted to get into a rhythm and Kevin Walsh must be credited for putting the bite back into Galway’s play.
On the other hand, what Cillian O’Connor did in the first half was just unsporting. Tom Flynn stood his ground but O’Connor ran straight at him and fell down like a sack of spuds prompting Joe McQuillan to show Flynn a black card. O’Connor deliberately threw himself on the ground and it was awful to see.
Mayo looked flat when you would have expected them to be up for this having lost last year’s meeting. Maybe, just maybe, age is creeping up on them. They can’t be written off because of their experience and they’ll give the backdoor a good shot, but of their forwards only McLoughlin was dangerous.
None of Durcan, Lee Keegan or Tom Parsons punched any holes either and they looked conservative even when they had a full complement.
From a Galway perspective, I had worried about Mayo’s superior free-taking ability but that didn’t come to pass.
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