FACING OFF Mayo’s Tommy Conroy is tackled by Galway's Conor Campbell during their recent National League clash in Tuam. Pic: Sportsfile
Billy Joe Padden
THE fact that Mayo are getting ready this week to play in their first Connacht Final for five years, and that so many of their players have never won a Connacht senior medal, is a real positive ahead of a rematch with Galway.
This is knock-out, with no second chances, so that means everything they’ve done before, and won before, is irrelevant now. The only thing that matters is beating Galway in a one-off game to win a Connacht title and go through to an All-Ireland semi-final.
That prospect is really something to look forward to.
A positive for Padraic Joyce will be that’s he had two weeks to look at Mayo and really plan for them. A negative for him though is that Galway haven’t had a game since they lost to Dublin three weeks next Sunday.
So coming off two National League defeats — against Mayo and Dublin — and not getting a chance to play Sligo last weekend is going to leave Galway feeling like they might be undercooked.
But I certainly don’t see Joyce or his team being complacent and they’ll definitely be motivated after what happened in Tuam a few weeks ago.
In fact, after that league match last month and how Limerick played out last summer, I’d imagine that Galway will be talking this week about how Mayo dominated them physically in those two matches, especially early on.
Mayo looked much sharper and more focussed than Galway in those two games, so that is bound to be a point of emphasis for Joyce — that Mayo don’t get a head start in Salthill.
Galway are definitely going to try and put more pressure on David Clarke’s kick-outs so Mayo are going to need to retain the ball really well when they get it. That’s where lads like Diarmuid O’Connor and Kevin McLoughlin are so important to the game-plan.
In terms of a prediction, I think Mayo can and will win the game.
And they will do it by doing the things that helped them to beat Galway a few weeks ago, and in the championship last year. In fact, that Qualifier in Limerick is probably more of a template for what we will see on Sunday.
James Horan will have his team pushing high up the field, pressuring the Galway kick-out like they did against Roscommon, they’ll be aggressive around the middle, the forwards will tackle really hard when Galway’s backs are trying to come out.
And then you have to have a level of trust that your defenders are good enough in ‘one-on-one’ situations. They will need to be against forwards like Galway have.
But Mayo will be trying to pressure the ball to make it hard for Galway to play quality ball into their attack. And they will aim to use their running power, the likes of Paddy Durcan, Eoghan McLaughlin, Matthew Ruane and Diarmuid O’Connor to punch holes in the Galway defence.
That’s going to be the game-plan and I think it can be successful for them.
James Carr caused Galway a lot of problems last year; could he have a big role to play again, maybe coming off the bench? Tommy Conroy’s speed could also cause a Galway full-back line that isn’t the quickest problems too.
None of this will come as a surprise to Padraic Joyce, he knows what to expect from Mayo.
But will he and Galway be able to deal with it? I don’t think they will if Mayo bring the sort of energy and intensity they brought to Roscommon last Sunday.