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Knock-out blow for Mayo U-21s


Over and out

Galway 0-9
Mayo 0-7

Mike Finnerty

OF all the ways we imagined this U-21 championship campaign panning out for Mayo this season, it certainly wasn’t supposed to end like this.
Not on the first day out. Not after racking up twelve wides. Not after scoring just twice from play, and not without doing themselves justice. Not like this.
That was probably the most disappointing aspect of this miserable, short-lived adventure; Mayo are surely better than this lacklustre effort but now we will never know.
For the fourth year in a row the county’s U-21 championship ambitions crashed and burned before they even had a chance to state their case.
Mayo arrived in Tuam Stadium last Saturday with high hopes of making some noise, their team packed with players that possessed potential, talent and underage experience.
A few hours later, Mayo left Tuam Stadium wondering where it all went wrong after being beaten fair and square by a highly-motivated and well-prepared Galway outfit.
It is informative to note that Mayo never led in this scrappy, stop-start, windswept derby match that failed to live up to expectations.
They were behind from the opening minute, got back on level terms twice early in the second half, but, crucially, could never get their noses in front.
The failure of four of their starting forwards to score, and the fact that senior attackers Cillian O’Connor and Evan Regan could only muster one point each from play, also compounded their problems.
O’Connor and Regan, who were both returning from their respective six-month injury lay-offs, also endured a difficult day on the free-taking front.
Both of them missed kicks they would have expected to convert, and the general confusion over the place-kicking duties seemed unnecessary.
Having wing-back Conor Horan sent off in the 20th minute for a second booking wasn’t part of Tony Duffy’s best-laid plans, but numerical parity was restored before half-time when Galway’s Liam Silke was also red-carded.
Galway had raced into a three point lead by the eighth minute as their outstanding corner-forward Shane Walsh fired over two frees and Adrian Varley swung over a point from play.
Remarkably, Alan Flynn’s team only added one further point to their tally for the rest of the half as Mayo stayed in touch despite their forwards’ failure to master the tricky breeze.
A string of frees were missed too but Evan Regan did convert two from his hands (9th and 25th minutes) with one from Cillian O’Connor sandwiched in between.
This meant that Galway only led by 0-4 to 0-3 at the break despite the midfield dominance of Fiontain Ó Curraoin and Damien Comer.
We expected Mayo to get their act together when the game resumed and when Cillian O’Connor landed the equaliser from a huge free on the left wing after four minutes, it looked like normal service would be resumed.
However, Galway’s talisman Shane Walsh nudged the locals back in front a minute later before Danny Kirby (probably Mayo’s most effective performer in the second half) and Damien Comer traded points moments later.
A counter-attacking score from the marauding Shane Walsh in the 41st minute doubled Galway’s lead, and also reminded all and sundry that the Tribesmen were up for the fight.
Mayo backs like Aidan Butler, Conor Walsh and Eoghan Collins were doing their best to lead the resistance but a scoreless fifteen-minute spell hampered the rescue mission.
The game was in the 51st minute when Cillian O’Connor squeezed over his only score from play but, instead of building on this, Mayo were opened up themselves as Shane Walsh made space and time to fire over a couple of inspirational scores.
It was the story of the evening; Galway setting the agenda and Mayo struggling to find their feet.
In hindsight, these points decided the issue as Mayo lacked the composure and guile to engineer the scores they needed.
They did benefit from a fisted ‘own’ point by Galway in a crowded goalmouth in injury-time, and also created a goal chance in the dying seconds that James Shaughnessy blazed wide, but it wasn’t to be.
Gone in sixty minutes.

T Healy; L Silke, J Shaughnessy, E Walsh; M Loughnane, D Burke, P Varley; F Ó Curraoin, D Comer (0-1); C Mulryan (0-1), S Moran, P Cunningham; S Walsh (0-6, 4fs), A Varley (0-1), G Kelly.
Subs used: C Rabbitte for Cunningham; S Maughan for Kelly; E Ó hÉochaidn for Moran; G Canavan for Comer.

P Mannion; N Freeman, B Harrison, A Butler; C Horan, C Walsh, E Collins; D Kirby (0-1), M Forde; A Gallagher, C O’Connor (0-3, 2fs), F Durkan; D Coen, C O’Shea, E Regan (0-2, 2fs).Subs used: E Lavin for Gallagher; E Jordan for Durkan; K Ruttledge for Regan.

Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)