A TALL ORDER Mayo’s Ryan O’Donoghue is tackled by Galway’s Seán Mulkerrin during Sunday’s Connacht SFC Final. Pic: Sportsfile
THINK Peadar Gardiner in ’09 in Salthill; think Conor Mort’ in the corner at the old tunnel in MacHale Park in ’06. Think Tuam in ’99 and a day for the ages.
And who could forget Jimmy Burke’s pushover goal at the Hyde in 1989?
There are some great Connacht final memories from down the years for Mayo fans, but this year’s incarnation will take its place right up there.
During the last decade amassing Connacht titles became a procession for Mayo until, well, it didn’t.
Last year was their first since 2015 and as much as it meant, Mayo fell over the line.
It will not live long in the memory. But this one will.
We can’t recall a provincial decider where Mayo looked so out of it and turned it around and won.
At half-time in this game, it looked like Galway were the team that were delivering on their spades of natural ability, and Mayo looked like a team wilting before our eyes.
Galway led by five points and were in command.
Mayo had went 21 minutes without scoring in the first half.
They looked out of ideas in attack, a lot of their key men were missing in action, and Galway were playing with what seemed unshakeable confidence.
The second half was a revelation.
Mayo were a team transformed after the break. Perhaps that half-time fracas in the tunnel gave them an extra pep in their step. More likely, they were told they were not working hard enough, not showing for the ball, not supporting the man in possession.
In addition, subs Eoghan McLaughlin and Kevin McLoughlin made an immediate impact while reconfiguring the match-ups worked a treat too.
Sometimes going in front like Galway did can embolden a team. Other times it can give you a false sense of confidence that can be brittle to a surge from the opposition.
A direct ball in from McLoughlin to Aidan O’Shea and a slip to Matthew Ruane saw a penalty which Ryan O’Donoghue converted.
Mayo had the goal they needed and Galway crumbled, minute by minute.
They failed to score until the 62nd minute of the half — from a free gifted by a rash Lee Keegan sliding tackle — and whereas their key men were buoyant and rampaging in the first half, they disappeared from view in the second.
Mayo, meanwhile, saw leaders pop up from all over, many of them players who had been indifferent in the opening half.
Two savage runs by Mattie Ruane, one on the ball and one off the ball, proved the key to unlocking Galway.
For the penalty, he handpassed to Kevin McLoughlin and bolted.
He knew McLoughlin would kick to Aidan O’Shea and knew O’Shea would need support. Somehow, by the time O’Shea won the ball and looked up, Ruane was running inside him, before being dragged down.
His run for his goal had perhaps a touch of fortune but one that is merited for perseverance. His power in the tackle was apparent and his finish was cool as you like.
He’s a player on top of his game.
Oisin Mullin relegated Shane Walsh from the match’s star to a bit-part role with a tour-de-force. Not alone that, he surged forward to hurt Galway the other way too.
Ryan O’Donoghue had been Mayo’s main threat in the first half and was even more so in the second half. His goal from play should never have been ruled out, but he was a constant threat and kicked his frees with confidence. Many had questioned how he might get on taking pressure frees in a big game. They got their answer.
And we can only hope that Pádraig O’Hora’s injury is not serious because he has made himself a key cog in the Mayo team in two games. Quite why he has seen so little game-time in recent years is a mystery, but he was immense after half-time, with two incredible turnovers. He was solid in the first half too when others were struggling.
As good as Mayo were in the second half, no analysis of this game can ignore how much Galway were authors of their own downfall to a large degree.
They had the opposition where they wanted them at half-time and while Mayo’s third quarter comeback did change the game, the game was still anybody’s if Galway could summon the fight.
They couldn’t and that will be what will be hardest to take about this result for them.
In the first half, they underlined the point Kevin McStay articulated on our podcast last week that Galway have the more naturally able footballers.
But talent alone will get you nowhere. You have to come up with the goods when the chips are down. Only one team did that on Sunday.
Match-ups didn’t add up
YOU have to credit James Horan for the remedial work he did at half-time.
The match-ups for the second half were spot on and did much to blunt Galway’s attack.
But you have to question the initial match-ups.
Lee Keegan on Shane Walsh and Oisin Mullin on Damien Comer seemed ill-judged from the get-go and so it turned out.
Walsh has rapid pace and you could see Keegan was struggling. Mayo had two options for the Galway dangerman – Mullin or Paddy Durcan.
By the same token, Keegan seemed a very good fit for Damien Comer.
Instead we watched him struggle to keep with Walsh and Comer was flying too.
It was unclear whose job it was to pick Paul Conroy. Perhaps it was Aidan O’Shea or perhaps there was no one assigned. However, the Galway midfielder had a field day.
Perhaps, as is his wont, Horan wanted to have certain players in certain positions of the field (Mullin and Durcan in the half-back line perhaps) and did not want to be too reactive to what Galway did with his own match-ups.
But he learned the hard way on Sunday how that’s a high-risk move.