Connacht FBD League
THERE were a few reasons for Mayo manager Kevin McStay to be optimistic after Saturday evening’s rare Connacht FBD League win over Galway at the Air Dome in Bekan.
A first victory over the neighbours in the competition for 12 years gives Mayo a chance to win the competition for the first time since 2012; but more importantly he got to run the rule over another 19 players as the countdown to the National League continues.
Earlier in the day McStay and his management team had fielded a completely different team in a challenge game win over Westmeath, so all in all it was a good day’s work.
“It was nice to get a result, it’s nice to get to a final and get another match out of the FBD,” McStay said after watching his experimental team hang on to beat a second-string Galway outfit.
“That’s what we were looking for. It gives us a chance to get a look at more lads again next weekend, so overall, quite pleased with it.
“I’d say the attitude was really good. Like that, there was a lot of energy through the game. “There were different challenges as the game went on, but overall the attitude was spot on. “We’re trying to consistently get that good attitude, a lot of good things will flow out of a good attitude.”
That attitude was needed in the closing stages as Mayo saw their lead of 11 points just after half-time sliced back to just two points in additional time.
Galway were finishing like a train, with Damien Comer prowling dangerously around their attack, and impact sub’ Tomo Culhane hunting a hat-trick after hitting 2-2 in the second half.
But Mayo’s largely young and fresh-faced selection held their nerve and a fine score from Castlebar’s Bob Tuohy cemented a deserved win.
Around 1,000 people were inside the world’s largest sports dome to watch this dry run for the National League Division 1 game between the counties in two weeks’ time.
They got their money’s worth too, especially in the second half as the surface and laboratory conditions of the Dome lent itself to fast-break, end-to-end, basketball-style football.
The first quarter set the tone and the sides were deadlocked at 0-4 apiece after 18 minutes.
Then Mayo really cut loose and proceeded to rack up 2-5 in no time while the defending champions only managed a solitary point at the other end in the second quarter.
Two clinically-taken goals from Paul Towey and James Carr (after a sublime long-range pass from Rory Brickenden) in the 23rd and 35th minutes respectively, along with three points from the accurate Aidan Orme, left the homeside up by 2-9 to 0-5 at the break.
Galway’s only response was a pointed free from Barry McHugh in the 32nd minute.
Padraic Joyce sent on four subs at half-time, including Tomo Culhane, and the Salthill-Knocknarrra attacker shot 1-2 to get their comeback up and running.
Mayo kept their neighbours at arm’s length with four unanswered points from Bryan Walsh, Aidan Orme, Paul Towey and James Carr to double their lead again.
But Galway were far from finished, and a goal from the tireless Matthew Tierney kept them in it.
A point from substitute Damien Comer and a second goal from the talented Tomo Culhane on 67 minutes left Padraic Joyce’s charges two behind as the clock ran down.
But a good save from Rory Byrne to deny Nathan Grainger a goal and Bob Tuohy’s late point was enough to send Mayo into the final against Roscommon back in the University of Galway/Connacht GAA Air Dome next Friday evening at 7.30pm.
“It’s a game that we’ll take on its merits,” said Kevin McStay of next weekend’s FBD decider. “It’s a game that’s there to be won, the FBD has been very good to us over the years, we get a great bounce out of it.
“Of course there’s a provincial league cup up for grabs and we’ll be going for that. We’ve a big panel, whatever we put out, if they’ve a good attitude, of course they can be competitive. It’s game on game on game, and then it’s the league, and then it’s game on game and that’s just the nature of this season.”
R Byrne; J Coyne, R Brickenden, S Callinan; F Kelly, S Coen, D McHugh; M Ruane (0-1), J Flynn; F McDonagh (0-1), B Tuohy (0-1), B Walsh (0-3); A Orme (0-5, 1f), J Carr (1-2), P Towey (1-4, 2fs).
Subs used: G Durcan for Carr; C Dempsey for Walsh; K Callaghan (0-1) for McDonagh; C Dunleavy for Kelly;
B Power; C Sweeney (0-1), S Fitzgerald, J Foley; D McHugh, B Mannion, D O’Flaherty; J Maher (0-1), M Barrett; D Canney, M Tierney (1-0), J Heaney (0-3); I Burke, R Finnerty (0-2), B McHugh (0-2,1f).
Subs used: E Kelly for Foley; P Kelly for Canney; E Murphy for B McHugh; T Culhane (2-2) for Barrett; J Kirrane for Sweeney; J McLoughlin for Maher; D Comer (0-1) for Fitzgerald; B Mannion for O’Flaherty; N Grainger for Burke.
Referee: B Judge (Sligo)