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Galway-Mayo game is going to be close


READY FOR ACTION Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor and Galway skipper Gary O’Donnell are pictured at the launch of the Connacht GAA Championships in Bekan last month. Pic: James Molloy

Talking Tactics
Billy Joe Padden

THE moment of truth is almost upon us.
On Sunday we find out for sure where Mayo stand.
Galway have been building steadily over the last few seasons and we now know last year’s win in Castlebar wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan.
They’re the reigning Connacht champions, and even after that bad defeat to Tipperary in the All-Ireland quarter-final, Galway came back this spring and put down a consistent National League campaign.
Winning that Division 2 title is proof-positive that Galway are on an upward curve, and nobody should underestimate them.
The way I’d assess Galway is that they’re a strong team, who won’t be bullied, they’ve got a lot of pace, and they possess a very dangerous forward unit.
Plus, they play to a very definite system.
They would have gone into the Mayo game last year thinking, ‘We might win this’. This time they’ll be thinking, ‘We will win this’.
In terms of how Mayo are going to set up on Sunday, if it was me I’d play a defined sweeper and I’d give the job to somebody like Kevin McLoughlin.
My fear would be that Mayo might end up putting Lee Keegan in the full-back line to pick up either Shane Walsh or Damien Comer.
That to me would be totally counter-productive because we’re struggling for scores, and in my opinion Lee Keegan is one of our main attacking threats. So moving him back leaves us short up front.
And then there’s the Aidan O’Shea question.
For me, if he’s fit, then he starts.
O’Shea helps to set the tone early on in games like this so I’d be posting him around centre-back and telling him to get stuck in from the beginning.
If O’Shea does start then I’d be leaving Andy Moran on the bench and bringing him in for the last 20 or 25 minutes when things open up.
He’d add a spark coming in like that, he’d lift the crowd, and he’s the ideal man to get you a score or two when the chips are down.
Sunday’s game could be tailor-made for Donie Vaughan too; he always tends to play well against Galway and his physicality and athleticism will be needed when the going gets tough.
I’d feel much more comfortable and confident with Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan, Tom Parsons, Seamie and Aidan O’Shea and Donie Vaughan all attacking at pace from the middle third of the field.
Can you just imagine them breaking out at speed?
Galway would really fear that sort of pace and power driving forward at every opportunity.
The vast majority of pressure going into Sunday’s game is still on Mayo. Everybody outside the camp, and I’m guessing most of the guys inside too, are wondering if this squad could bounce back from another defeat in the Connacht championship.
I don’t think they could if I’m being honest.
A Mayo win and a big performance gives them something to hang their hat on going into July.
As for a verdict, my head says it’s really a 50/50 game and my heart says I want to see one of those great, gritty Mayo displays of the recent past.
I think that’s where they’re going to have to go to beat Galway; back to the well one more time and dig out the bravery, guts, aggression and desire that has served them so well over the last five or six seasons.
Don’t expect fancy football to win the day this time.
The gap between Mayo and Galway is narrower than it’s been for years, and if Mayo win it will be by a point or two. Their greater experience could just tip the scales.
But they’ll need a goal or two as well.

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