Gal­way hold edge for now

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SOCCER - SEÁN MO­RAN

Quar­ter-fi­nal Mayo v Gal­way Sun­day, MacHale Park, Castle­bar, 4pm Live on RTÉ 2 Down the track it comes. There’s noth­ing like a big first-round match which ev­ery­one’s been an­tic­i­pat­ing since the draw was made. The pat­tern of this ri­valry in re­cent times has been that Gal­way start the sea­son well, but Mayo fin­ish it bet­ter. So far that looks like re­main­ing the case.

Gal­way have thrived in their first sea­son back in Di­vi­sion One. Against that, Mayo were at sixes and sevens, and taken to the very edge of rel­e­ga­tion. This is the third match be­tween the ri­vals, and Gal­way have al­ready won both the FBD and AFL fix­tures.

Stephen Rochford’s team are said to be ir­ri­tated by the ag­gres­sive pre­ten­sions of Gal­way in a sour en­counter in Salthill last Feb­ru­ary, but crank­i­ness is a lim­ited weapon of choice in cham­pi­onship. Last sea­son Mayo lost Keith Hig­gins to a red card af­ter half an hour and it is im­pos­si­ble to be­lieve that the one-point mar­gin mightn’t have been over­turned by his team keep­ing a full com­ple­ment.

The prob­lem with dwelling on that as an ar­gu­ment against Gal­way is that Kevin Walsh’s team have surged since last year, and have Damien Comer in re­splen­dent form, skit­tling de­fences like a bumper car with its own en­ergy sup­ply.

Gal­way’s de­fen­sive sys­tem has another year of prac­tice be­hind it, and they have also added some promis­ing young tal­ent, such as Seán Andy Ó Ceal­laigh, last year’s un­der-21 full back, a prob­lem po­si­tion for them, and Ciarán Dug­gan at cen­tre field.

Mayo have gone the other di­rec­tion. Their tal­is­man Lee Kee­gan is out in­jured, while Cil­lian O’Con­nor starts de­spite wor­ries over his fit­ness.

There are two com­pet­ing the­o­ries. One is that Mayo are too patched up to hit the ground run­ning. The other is that Gal­way have never come close to the sort of per­for­mances that Mayo rou­tinely give at the sharp end of the cham­pi­onship, and are vul­ner­a­ble to a fo­cused chal­lenge.

There’s truth in both, but Gal­way cur­rently have the edge. Last­meet­ing:2017Con­nacht­semi-fi­nalatPearse Sta­dium–Gal­way0-15,Mayo1-11. Just­thet­icket:¤30,¤25and­ju­ve­niles¤5.Lim­ited avail­abil­ity.Notick­et­sleft­on­line.Check­localout­lets. Odds:Mayo9/11,Gal­way6/4and15/2draw. Ver­dict:Gal­way­towin PDur­can,CBoyle,SCoen;SO’Shea,TPar­sons;K McLough­lin,AO’Shea,DO’Con­nor;CLof­tus,C O’Con­nor,AMo­ran. O’Don­nell,GBrad­shaw,CSweeney;TF­lynn,CDug­gan;S Walsh,PCon­roy,JHeaney;SArm­strong,DComer,B McHugh. Ref­eree:ConorLane(Cork)

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