IN Mayo they might be inclined to call this a start, something to be going on with after a patchy, morale-sapping league campaign.
And, most notably of all, the robust second-half recovery from a six-point deficit will have planted some doubts in Liam Sammon’s head even if his men go on to win the National League outright.
Sammon doesn’t do ‘grim-faced manager’ well, so there was no point searching for trouble in his countenance before he left Tuam Stadium yesterday evening, but this one will have hurt.
Tuam Stadium, not Pearse Stadium, remains the natural home of Galway-Mayo clashes south of the bridge in Shrule, and 6,140 turned up to bring a buzz to the old venue: we venture a straw poll would have revealed strong support for a home win and further difficulties for John O’Mahony in his second coming as Mayo boss.
Galway will make the league final if they get even a point from their trip to Kerry in a fortnight. But anything less than that and they will need a favour from Donegal. Mayo will need something from the Tyrone game to stay clear of relegation trouble.
Galway pulled Mayo this way and that in the first-half. On the cusp of half-time, they were six up and cruising – 0-9 to 0-3.
Yet another Galway attack led to Paul Conroy into a one-on-one with Mayo ‘keeper David Clarke, who fouled. Michael Meehan stepped up. Reporters chalked it down.
This would be the final, fatal wound for Mayo: amazingly, Meehan, possibly the most accomplished player of this league, drove it low and wide.
Thus it was Mayo who went in with a feeling of having been reprieved, and how they capitalised. In seven minutes of devastating play after the resumption, with the breeze at their backs, they kicked 1-2 without reply.
Replacement defender Kevin McLoughlin kicked a point, teenage full-forward Aidan O’Shea tapped home the goal following enlightened work by Mark Ronaldson, and Austin O’Malley added the third score.
At 0-9 to 1-5, all bets were off. It was now do-or-die, a winner-takes-all championship-style showdown. Mayo displayed the greater hunger and Galway could only manage four further points.
The crucial parcel of scores came from Conor Mortimer (free), and wing-back Peadar Gardiner (two from play) in the 60th, 64th and 65th minutes. These put Mayo one up, 1-10 to 0-12.
Joe Bergin levelled for Galway, but the visitors had the scent of blood in their nostrils and centre-forward Trevor Mortimer kicked what proved to be the winner from an acute angle just as the match drifted into injury-time.
Páraic Joyce then went direct from a sideline kick, but couldn’t steer it over. Mayo celebrated the final whistle with unseasonal enthusiasm.
They needed this, team and management. They will now hope it proves to be a turning-point and the herald of a championship far superior to their last two dismal seasons.
The dropping of Conor Mortimer had been generated huge talk around Mayo. He came on at half-time and displayed more hunger than in recent games, and was heavily involved in the turnaround with some astute passing.
But most of all, it was the driving play of wing-backs Gardiner and Tom Cunniffe that propelled Mayo.
Galway’s star has waned after a magnificent start to the league. They are not the finished product yet, though, in fairness, they never said they were.
Forced to go short into the strong breeze, Galway found Mayo’s relentless tackling too much to penetrate. They made a surprising number of handling errors, with the previously immaculate Gareth Bradshaw particularly culpable. It was his spillage that led to O’Shea’s goal, and from there to the end, Galway were unable to find any real fluency.
Leagues come and go. This wasn’t really about the league: it was about setting the tone for the summer. With Mayo showing signs of reviving, and Roscommon loitering with intent, western bragging rights may be more keenly disputed than we had thought.
Scorers for Mayo: A O’Shea 1-1, A O’Malley 0-3 (2f), C Mortimer 0-2 (2f), P Gardiner 0-2, A Dillon 0-1 (f), T Mortimer 0-1, K McLoughlin 0-1. Scorers for Galway: M Meehan 0-6 (3f), P Conroy 0-4 (3f), J Bergin 0-2, B Cullinane 0-1.
GALWAY: A Faherty; N Coyne, F Hanley, D Burke; G Bradshaw, D Blake, D Reilly; B Cullinane, J Bergin; S Armstrong, P Joyce, D Dunleavy; P Conroy, M Meehan, M Clancy. Subs: G Sice for M Clancy, 52; F Breathnach for D Dunleavy, 57; G O’Donnell for S Armstrong, 68.
MAYO: D Clarke; L O’Malley, G Cafferkey, K Conroy; P Gardiner, T Cunniffe, A Moran; P Harte, R McGarrity; M Ronaldson, T Mortimer, A Dillon; M Sweeney, A O’Shea, A O’Malley. Subs: T Parsons for P Harte (Yellow card), 30; C Mortimer for M Sweeney, ht; K McLoughlin for K Conroy, ht; BJ Padden for A O’Malley, 69.
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).
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