Galway hold edge for now
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)