EYES WIDE SHUT Galway’s Barry Cullinane locks horns with Mayo's Ronan McGarrity during the 2008 National League. Pic: Sportsfile
THE prospect of pushing Mayo closer to the relegation trapdoor and Division Two of the National League will not be playing on the minds of the Galway players and management when the two counties go head-to-head next Sunday, according to the former Tribesmen midfielder Barry Cullinane.
League leaders Galway have won four of their first five games while Mayo are currently second from bottom after winning just one of their first five matches.
Connacht’s great rivals meet in Pearse Stadium in Salthill and, if the Tribesmen beat Mayo and Donegal get a result against Tyrone, then Mayo will lose their top-flight status for the first time in 22 years.
However, speaking to The Mayo News Football Podcast this week, Cullinane said he believes that Galway manager Padraig Joyce will be driving home a different message.
“I don’t think we’re going to do ye any favours,” the Galway Bay FM analyst told Rob Murphy on the podcast. “But you have to separate what supporters want and what the players want.
“If you look at the Galway footballers at the minute… I would say one of the main driving factors for them is to give the Galway supporters something to shout about, to get them up off their seats.
“I don’t think it makes any difference whether it’s Kerry, Dublin, Mayo, whoever they’re playing. I think the big focus for them is that they’re back in Pearse Stadium, there’s going to be a big crowd there, [and] we have to build on the momentum in terms of support and people buying into Galway football which has been created in such a short period of time.
“I think that will be the message. I don’t think it [relegating Mayo] will be even factored into the equation… I don’t think that will be on the minds of the Galway management or players.”
Cullinane added that the appointment of Joyce as manager has brought huge ‘enthusiasm and excitement back to Galway football’.
He compared the interest to levels in Galway at the moment to those in the late 1990s when the Mayo and Galway rivalry was nothing if not fierce, and admits that the spark between the counties has returned in recent times.
“I think the Galway-Mayo thing is such a rivalry because we have the geographical thing and we also have the demographic side,” said Cullinane.
“There is such an inter-mix of Galway and Mayo people, be it in schools, family, work; so many Galway people living in Mayo and Mayo living in Galway.
“You hope it stays a healthy rivalry because sometimes it goes a bit over the top. But we’re all in a happier place if both Mayo and Galway are relatively successful,” he continued. “We’d all love to go back to the days of ‘96, ’97 and ‘98, that over-and-back period of real top quality games being played.
“We had a stage not too long ago where Mayo were hugely dominant, Galway probably have a little advantage at the moment, but it’s still a very, very strong rivalry at the moment.”
National League Division 1
Galway v Mayo
Sunday, March 15
Salthill at 2pm
Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone)