A professional hit
IN hindsight there had been no shortage of clues from the Mayo manager and some of his senior players last week that they felt a big performance was brewing.
They told us that the team were wearing the favourite’s tag comfortably, they made no secret of how well their preparation had gone, and they said they would ‘do the testing’ against Galway. They were true to their word on all counts.
Last Sunday, on a warm and muggy day at Pearse Stadium, Mayo put an outclassed Galway to the sword ruthlessly.
A margin of victory over our neighbours that hadn’t been achieved since 1907, a performance that yielded 4-12 from open play, and allowed ten players to get on the scoresheet.
This was a performance, and a scoreline, to make Roscommon, and plenty of other teams, sit up and take notice.
A remarkably one-sided match, on a very surreal day by the seaside, was over long before the end as Mayo overpowered and outgunned a Galway side whose limitations were cruelly exposed.
First half goals from debutant Cathal Carolan, Enda Varley and Donal Vaughan set Mayo up for a half-time lead of 3-9 to 0-6 as their ‘pressing’ game and high-octane approach paid rich dividends.
By that stage six different Mayo players had scored, the defending champions were rampant all over the field, and a combination of midfield supremacy and some outrageous Galway individual errors had contributed to the three decisive goals.
An utterly miserable afternoon for the locals went from bad to worse in the early stages of the second half when their captain Gareth Bradshaw and midfielder Niall Coleman were both sent off on straight red cards, in the 37th and 51st minutes respectively, after getting involved in needless off-the-ball scuffles.
There was no shortage of positives, talking points and highlights for Mayo from this exercise but none moreso than the return from long-term injuries of both Alan Dillon and Andy Moran.
Dillon started and put in an excellent shift, as always, linking play and clipping two sweet scores to help set the tone early on.
Moran, meanwhile, made his eagerly-awaited return to the fray more than nine months after tearing his cruciate knee ligament against Down last August.
He came on with ten minutes to go and scored a superb goal to mark his comeback that completed the rout.
All but four points of Mayo’s total tally came from open play with ten different players getting on the scoresheet.
Physically, mentally and tactically there was only one team in it. Galway had no answer to Mayo’s physical power and pace, their well-rehearsed, relentless and disciplined tackling, and their movement and awareness up front.
The defence restricted Galway to three points from play (all in the opening half) and also kept a clean sheet thanks to a fine second half stop from David Clarke to deny the aforementioned Cummins.
The entire sextet, plus substitute Shane McHale, worked well as a unit with the indefatiguable Colm Boyle the pick of the bunch.
Aidan and Seamus O’Shea fetched and carried all afternoon to totally eclipse Galway’s Coleman and O Curraoin, while Cillian O’Connor orchestrated a lot of Mayo’s best moves.
Kevin McLoughlin, Cathal Carolan, Alan Freeman and Enda Varley (who shot 1-3 from play) also played pivotal roles as they hassled, harried, and hunted in equal measure.
Three successive Galway frees at the start of the second half from Michael Meehan (2) and Shane Walsh did hint at the prospect of a mini-revival, but the two sending-offs proved to be the final straw.
In the final quarter Mayo picked off eye-catching scores from Lee Keegan, Cillian O’Connor, Enda Varley and debutant Darren Coen to gloss the final scoreline.
However, the last word went to Andy Moran whose subsequent celebration capped a memorable day for Team Mayo and their supporters.
Next up is Roscommon, and a whole different ball game.
D Clarke; K Higgins, T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey; L Keegan (0-1), C Boyle, D Vaughan (1-1); A O'Shea, S O Shea; K McLoughlin, C O'Connor (0-6, 4fs), C Carolan (1-0); E Varley (1-3), A Freeman (0-1), A Dillon (0-2).
Subs used: S McHale for Cafferkey (19); R Feeney (0-1) for Freeman; D Coen (0-1) for Dillon (57); J Burke for Keegan (59); A Moran (1-0) for Carolan (61).
M Breathnach; J Duane, C Forde, G Sweeney; G Bradshaw, K Kelly, G Sice; N Coleman, F O Curraoin; T Flynn, P Conroy (0-1), C Doherty; S Armstrong (0-2, 2fs), M Meehan (0-5, 4fs, ‘45), D Cummins (0-2).
Subs used: S Walsh (0-1, 1f) for Doherty (23); J Moore for Sweeney (h-t); G O'Donnell for Armstrong (53); E Concannon for Sice (61); M Martin 5 for Meehan (62).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)