As Mayo fail to fade out against Galway
THE great Glengooley hurling manager Timmy Ryan uttered the famous words ‘its a game of two halves lads, you have the first half. And you have the second half’. And they were rarely as poles apart as in Tuam today. ‘D’unbelievable’ as Timmy himself might say.
Mayo were inches from being nine points down at half-time, and indeed deserved nothing less with possibly their worst performance this year (and there’s been plenty of contenders for that accolade). A hiding appeared on the cards but at half-time it looked like John O’Mahony blatantly broke the rules as fifteen different players came out for the resumption.
How can we go from being so bad to being so good? Granted, it is better than the other way around but how long can we really expect to compete with such shocking first half displays?
Anyway we’ll leave the first half analysis to later. The second 35 minutes warmed the hearts of all Mayos present in Tuam Stadium and that it was enough to beat our old friends Galway was all the more rewarding.
Galway led 0-9 to 0-3 at the break, with Michael Meehan missing a penalty right on the half-time whistle. O”Mahony only made two changes at the break (we trust you understood that the line about fifteen new players was in jest). Conor Mortimer came on for Mikey Sweeney but it was the second sub’ that got the Mayo comeback motoring.
Kevin McLoughlin came on for Kieran Conroy, who had been uncomfortable in possession, and the Knockmore man showed his history of playing in attack at underage for his club by pointing beautifully from 40 metres.
One minute later the excellent Mark Ronaldson broke through on goal, kept the ball smartly on the deck before squaring for Aidan O’Shea to sidefoot to the net. Game on!
Ronaldson was back playing at wing-forward – he had been a seventh defender in the first half – and Mayo started getting a foothold in midfield – McGarrity finally putting it up to Barry Cullinane – while Tom Parsons limited the effect of Joe Bergin who had given Pat Harte a torrid time before Harte was booked late in the first half.
All of this helped the ball flow towards the Galway goal. Austy O’Malley reduced the gap to a point after six minutes.
Paul Conroy and Michael Meehan both pointed frees to stretch Galway’s lead but Mayo were turning the screw. Mortimer pointed a free and then impressive full-forward Aidan O’Shea left the gap at just one. Trevor Mortimer was working himself to a standstill on the 40 (and not giving away every second ball, like in the first half) and Austy was working tiressly after coming out to wing-forward. Mark Ronaldson got on a power of ball, throwing his heart and soul into everything – could we have fifteen players with his attitude please?
Alan Dillon wasted a goal chance when he got caught in two minds and much of Mayo’s good work seemed to be undone when Meehan pointed after Galway worked the ball upfield after Dillon’s miss.
But Mayo dug deep again. Conor Mortimer (who was far from key in the comeback it must be said) pointed after O’Shea was fouled but Austy then missed the chance to equaliser when his free from 50 metres tailed just wide. It was the most unlikely of players who pointed from practically the same position as Austy had missed from – Peadar Gardiner proving the doubters wrong about his kicking ability with an inspirational point.
He struck the winner from an altogether easier position one minute later – much of the credit here must go to Dillon for wonderfully perceptive play to keep possession and then thread a wonderful pass into Gardiner’s flight.
Joe Bergin would equalise with four minutes remaining but when Dillon broke a ball in Trevor Mortimer’s direction two minutes later, the Shrule man composed himself and struck the winner. It was the most unlikely of results after what we had witnessed in the first half.
Yet again we were slow to start and Galway simply pulverised us in midfield. David Clarke’s high, hanging kicks didn’t help but Cullinane and Bergin simply toyed with McGarrity and Harte while anytime Mayo won possession around the middle we seemed to carry the ball into traffic rather than give quick and direct ball with the boot. Harte and Trevor Mortimer were especially guilty.
Ger Cafferkey was presented with a real test of his full-back credentials in Michael Meehan and the Ballina man, on one level, looked in trouble with Meehan kicking three early points from play. But the fact that Galway were able to kick such accurate ball out the field made Cafferkey’s job nigh on impossible and left much of the blame with Mayo players out the field who were unable to close down Galway.
To give credit where its due Cafferkey was excellent on Meehan in the second half, one stage where he forced the Galway supremo into overcarrying was inspirational for his teammates.
When Mayo attacked they had damn all outlets with the exception of full-forward Aidan O’Shea who asked plenty of Finian Hanley. The Breaffy man set up Kieran Conroy for a goal chance which was saved but, that apart, Mayo had to rely on three frees for their shots at target with Dillon and Austy (2) pointing.
Harte saw yellow before the break while we recorded a ticking for Ronan McGarrity – which means his second ticking in the second half should have led to a yellow which would have been crippling for Mayo because McGarrity was inspirational. A big mistake by Joe McQuillan.
But no one could have forseen the Mayo comeback. Someday now we might play for the full 70 with something approaching a bit of a game plan.
You’ll do well to get this far into a Galway match-report without mention of P Joyce. He was quiet, even during Galway’s dominance in the first half for which a certain amount of credit should go to Tom Cunniffe but the Kilererrin star just missed the equaliser with the last kick of the game. His sideline ball went just wide.
We’ll leave the last word to Timmy Ryan. ‘Ye’ll know all about it next year when ye’re under 14s’ Timmy once said philosophically. Well we’ll know all about it when we’re in championship for its still only the league. But we’re a damn sight more confident about that leaving Tuam today than leaving Ballina last week.
Mayo (ratings in brackets): D Clarke (6); L O’Malley (6), G Cafferkey (7), K Conroy (5); P Gardiner (7), T Cunniffe (7), A Moran (6); R McGarrity (8), P Harte (4); M Ronaldson (8), T Mortimer (8), A Dillon (7); A O’Malley (7), A O’Shea (8), M Sweeney (6). Subs: T Parsons (7), K McLoughlin (7), C Mortimer (7), B Padden. Scorers: A O’Shea (1-1), A O’Malley (0-3, 2fs), P Gardiner (0-2), C Mortimer (0-2, fs), A Dillon (0-1, f), K McLoughlin (0-1), T Mortimer (0-1).
Galway: A Faherty; N Coyne, F Hanley, D Burke; G Bradshaw, D Blake, D Reilly; J Bergin (0-2), B Cullinane (0-1); S Armstrong, P Joyce, D Dunleavy; P Conroy (0-4, 3fs), M Meehan (0-6, 2fs), M Clancy. Subs: F Breathnach for Dunleavy; G Sice for Clancy; G O’Donnell for Armstrong.
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).