UP WITH IT Mayo’s Peadar Gardiner lifts the Paddy Francis Dwyer Cup after the FBD League Final win over Galway.?Pic: Sportsfile
Mayo on the move
FBD Connacht League Final
Winning the FBD Connacht League might not constitute a giant leap forward for Mayo, but they certainly took another small step in the right direction against the ‘auld enemy’ at a bitterly cold McHale Park, Castlebar last Sunday afternoon.
John O’Mahony picked a team to get the job done and they didn’t let him down; four points in the final ten minutes proving enough to settle an argument that had raged fiercely from beginning to end.
A combination of hard graft, organised, disciplined defending and poise under pressure dug Mayo out of a tight corner as Ronan McGarrity, Chris Barrett, Enda Varley and Seamus O’Shea nailed late points to deliver a first provincial league title since 2003.
Joe Kernan’s makeshift Galway side gave a much better account of themselves than in the recent National League encounter although they badly missed the scoring power of Michael Meehan, Nickey Joyce and Sean Armstrong, and the quality of Paul Conroy and Gareth Bradshaw, who were all absent.
“You’d know it was an FBD final rather than a league game, it never really came to life,” said John O’Mahony afterwards. “But I was glad that when it got close near the end we were able to up the ante and get the couple of points that made the difference.
“The performance wasn’t as good as the last day against Galway, or as last Sunday, but I was glad that we were able to respond at the end when they got level.”
Things had looked very ‘touch-and-go’ for Mayo when Galway drew alongside them for the first time with eight minutes of normal time left.
With Diarmuid Blake, Barry Cullinane, Niall Coleman and Joe Bergin opening their shoulders around the middle of the field, Galway rattled off four points without reply from their abrasive wing-back Gary O’Donnell (2), Bergin and Cillin De Paor (free) to leave the scores tied at 0-8 apiece.
CROUCHING TIGER Mayo’s Donal Vaughan gets out in front of Galway’s Michael Martin during the FBD League Final last Sunday.?Pic: Sportsfile
Extra-time was even being contemplated at that stage but, instead, the Mayo defence pulled down the shutters, Tom Parsons and Ronan McGarrity clicked into life again, and a purple patch was fashioned to win the game.
The confidence gained from Mayo’s recent run of results was evident down the home stretch and also at the start as they took the game to Galway and raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after ten minutes. Ronan McGarrity, Enda Varley (2) and Peadar Gardiner were the scorers.
A twelve minute scoring drought hindered their efforts to kick on though and by half-time Mayo had to be content with a 0-6 to 0-4 lead as an inexperienced Galway side, driven on by influential centre-back Diarmuid Blake, stayed in touch with points from Eoin Concannon (free), Barry Cullinane and Cillin De Paor (free).
However, when the impressive Enda Varley and Andy Moran (who covered an incredible amount of ground and had a great battle with O’Donnell) both scored early in the second half, Mayo looked ready to take the initiative.
They were moving the ball quickly, their support play was incisive, and the forwards seemed to have the beating of their men. Ironically, Moran’s point was to be Mayo’s last for 22 minutes.
Galway asked plenty of hard questions during their spell in the ascendancy and if Messrs Meehan, Joyce and Armstrong had been available, it could have been a much different outcome. Even as it was, Mayo had to pull out all the stops down the home stretch to dig out the win, their third in as many weeks.
“Psychologically, the best shape you can be in is to win every game you play,” commented John O’Mahony when asked about the benefit of another victory over Galway. “I don’t think this result though, or even the league result, will matter if we meet here in the championship. The only match we can win on February 21 is this one.”
K O’Malley; A Feeney, G Cafferkey, D Vaughan; P Gardiner (0-1), T Howley, C Barrett (0-1); T Parsons, R McGarrity (0-2); A Moran (0-2), B Kelly, S O’Shea (0-1); E Varley (0-4, 1f), A O’Shea, M Ronaldson (0-1).
Subs used: N Douglas for Kelly; K McLoughlin for Howley; M Sweeney for Ronaldson.
E Ó Conghaile; D O’Neill, F Hanley, E McDonagh; T Fahy, D Blake, G O’Donnell (0-2); B Cullinane (0-1), N Coleman; C Bane, C De Paor (0-3, 3fs), C Healy; E Concannon (0-2, 1f), J Bergin (0-1), M Martin.
Sub used: D Dunleavy for Bane.
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)
AUDIO Listen to Rob Murphy, Mike Finnerty, Daniel Carey discuss the game on the Sports Podcast