Line-ups point to a tight game

THE Galway team has been named and so we can start to analyse who will be matched with whom and there are some very interesting tussles ahead.

We’ll run through the Galway team, which was named tonight, for starters. Its as follows: Adrian Faherty,
Niall Coyne, Finian Hanley, Damien Burke, Gareth Bradshaw, Diarmuid Blake, Gary Sice, Paul Conroy, Niall Coleman, Joe Bergin, Padraig Joyce, Nicky Joyce, Sean Armstrong, Michael Meehan, Declan Meehan.

It’s hard to predict who will go on who but as I look through the respective teams I see Galway have some players suited to Mayo players not directly opposite them and I predict the teams to line out something like this. 

Right corner-back Mayo Liam O’Malley v Left full-forward Galway Declan Meehan.

To be honest I do hope that O’Malley fails his fitness test because Vaughan is perfectly suited to following Meehan out the field, which is the role Meehan will play. O’Malley is more comfortable in the full-back line. He could switch over onto Sean Armstrong and let Keith Higgins go out the field but I’d be more confident with Higgins on Armstrong.

Advantage: Galway

Full-back Mayo Ger Cafferkey v Full-forward Galway Michael Meehan

People might point out that Keith Higgins has a great record on Meehan (I think it’s only average myself, Dermot Geraghty was much more comfortable in the role) but, in any event, it would be very undermining towards Ger Cafferkey to move him from full-back because management feel he might not be able for the challenge.

BIG TEST: Ger Cafferkey will have a right battle with Michael Meehan.

BIG TEST: Ger Cafferkey will have a right battle with Michael Meehan.

We know he will be better than Kieran Conroy was last year (when being played way out of position) and he did reasonably well in the league on Meehan (moreso in the second-half). Still if Meehan gets good ball Cafferkey and Mayo will be up against it.

Advantage: Galway

Left-corner back Mayo Keith Higgins v Right-corner forward Galway Sean Armstrong

Armstrong’s form worries me. He was Galway’s best player against Sligo and I’ve always felt he was a classy player if he got a run from injuries and put his mind to it. The signs are this could be the year. So we’ll need Keith Higgins back to close to his best to be able for the man playing on his home club pitch. Anything less and it’s Armstrong’s day.

Advantage: Galway

Right-half back Mayo Peadar Gardiner v Left-half forward Galway Nicky Joyce

Joyce is a classy player with talent but with questionable mental strength. Gardiner is a defender who doesn’t like to be run at. We better hope that Nicky Joyce gets out of the wrong side of the bed Sunday morning and that Gardiner has him on the run which is very much advantage Mayo. And, if like two years ago, Gardiner’s man goes in corner-forward, for the love of God John O’Mahony don’t let Gardiner follow him.

Advantage: Mayo

Centre-half back Mayo Trevor Howley v Centre-half forward Galway Padraig Joyce

Welcome to the Main Event Trevor. After plenty of speculation and trials at centre-half back Trevor Howley is finally starting a meaningful championship match against a decent centre-forward. Injury hasn’t allowed a proper run for him before (he would probably have been on Joyce last year were it not for injury) but the time has now come. Joyce hasn’t the pace of old but he still has the wily old brain. Howley needs to stop him getting the ball rather than tackle him when he is on the ball because the maestro can work space very easily. Joyce might just get the better of him.

Advantage: Galway (just about).

Left-half back Mayo Andy Moran v Right-half forward Galway Joe Bergin

We reckon Bergin will stick to this wing to start but may switch with Nicky Joyce as the game goes on. He’ll have the edge over Moran for fielding but Andy should be able to make it difficult. Bergin looked sluggish in general play though against Galway and I reckon we’ll be able to get Andy on the ball plenty of times to make good use of his kick passing. He should also try to run forward regularly.

Advantage: Mayo

Midfield Mayo Ronan McGarrity and David Heaney v Midfield Galway Niall Coleman and Paul Conroy.

MORE OF THE SAME PLEASE: Ronan McGarrity pictured fielding the ball high against Galway in the league. If fit we'll need more of the same from the classy midfielder.

MORE OF THE SAME PLEASE: Ronan McGarrity pictured fielding the ball high against Galway in the league. If fit we'll need more of the same from the classy midfielder.

If McGarrity starts and is close to mentally right for the game then I expect him to easily outfield either of the Galway players. Heaney will need to keep an eye on Conroy’s runs from deep as well as playing as a sweeper behind midfield. Expect Coleman to give McGarrity a few ‘welcome to Salthill shots early on’ but this is a sector we should and need to win.

Advantage: Mayo

Right-half forward Mayo Pat Harte v Left-half back Galway Gareth Bradshaw

While Bradshaw is picked at 5 I think the profile of the other two Galway defenders, Blake and Sice, are more suited to Mortimer and Dillon so Bradshaw will end up on Harte. Bradshaw is a serious operator going forward and Harte will have to track him. I tend to be a bit worried about Harte being so one sided but I reckon he can exploit a chink in the armour if he runs directly at Bradshaw. The Moycullen man does have the edge though.

Advantage: Galway

Centre-half forward Mayo Alan Dillon v Centre-half back Galway Gary Sice

I know Dillon is picked at 12 but he was picked there too against the Rossies and played at 11 and I see no reason for that to change. Sice marked him last year if I recall correctly and is a sticky marker and Blake would not be at all suited to Dillon. Even with Sice though Dillon has the ability to make hay. We need a strong performance from Dillon, more than any other player in my view, and if we get it, we’re well on the way.

Advantage: Mayo

Left-half forward Mayo Trevor Mortimer v Right-half back Galway Diarmuid Blake

Stack back and watch the two stags go at it. Two very strong men. I hope Trevor uses his pace time and time again if this pairing comes to pass. I also hope, as do all of Mayo, that his flawless use of the ball against Roscommon carries over. Time will tell but I’m confident in our captain.

Advantage: Mayo

Right-corner forward Mayo Aidan O’Shea v Left-corner back Niall Coyne

There had been speculation that Coyne would lose his place but I reckon he’s been kept because he could be a tough nut for O’Shea to crack. O’Shea gave Hanley a torrid time in the league but Coyne is stronger than Hanley and while he really struggled for pace against Sligo’s David Kelly, O’Shea’s game is more suited to the Carna man. I still expect the Breaffy man to win this personal battle though. But he’ll be sore afterwards.

Advantage: Mayo

Full-forward Mayo Barry Moran v Full-back Galway Finian Hanley

Partly for the reasons outlined above Hanley will be better suited to Moran. He’s a more rangy full-forward than O’Shea and Hanley has great pace, that should help him here also. Moran comes into this game lucky to be on the team after a shaky display against the Rossies. I must admit I’m not brimful of confidence here but if Moran finds his true form then it could be another story.

Advantage: Galway

Left-corner forward Mayo Aidan Kilcoyne v Right-corner back Galway Damien Burke

SECONDS PLEASE: Another start like Aidan Kilcoyne had in the above game against Roscommon will do us the world of good on Sunday.

SECONDS PLEASE: Another start like Aidan Kilcoyne had in the above game against Roscommon will do us the world of good on Sunday.

Kilcoyne is capable of giving Burke a serious test here. The Knockmore man is physically strong, much more so than Conor Mortimer who has so often struggled against Burke. Kilcoyne also has pace. What he needs on Sunday is an ability to stand up to Burke, not be afraid of him and not be afraid of the occasion. I can see him performing reasonably well, if he gets a good start, but Burke might just edge this duel.

Advantage: Galway.

Goalkeeper Mayo Kenneth O’Malley v Goalkeeper Galway Adrian Flaherty

Too close to call this one. Flaherty’s kickouts are longer but O’Malley’s are very accurate and smart. Both are excellent shot stopper. We’ll call this a draw.

Subs bench

This is where Mayo will win the match. Conor Mortimer. Tom Parsons. Donal Vaughan. Kevin McLoughlin. Mark Ronaldson. Billy Joe Padden. So many good options for so many positions. Galway had to bring on a player (Joe Joe Greaney) in the forward line in Sligo when Mattie Clancy got injured in the first half. Greaney was then taken off at half-time. Kieran Fitzgerald and Darren Mullahy are good options in defence but the selection of Declan Meehan at corner-forward doesn’t say much for Cormac Bane and Co. We think Damien Dunleavy and Fiachra Breathnach are out. Regardless they aren’t massive worries. Clancy and Gary O’Donnell (injury and suspension) are out. Massive advantage here for Mayo.

All in all I’ve predicted Mayo to win seven of the outfield battles, the same as Galway. That’s counting Mayo’s midfield advantage as two.  Our defence could be a weakness. I reckon we’ll only win two of those battles – Gardiner and Moran – and wouldn’t bet my house on it.

Our bench will be the key though. And it is that bench that will carry us to a Connacht title come 5.25 on Sunday in Salthill. Maigh Eo abu!

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