ALL ON THE LINE Mayo manager Kevin McStay and Stephen Rochford are pictured during the closing stages of Saturday’s National League clash with Galway. Pic Conor McKeown
THE manner of the late drama meant this draw felt far more positive for Mayo than Galway.
Ryan O’Donoghue’s superb equaliser with the last kick of the game lifted the roof in the stand and gave Mayo something for their considerable efforts.
But when Kevin McStay and company examine this game in the cold light of day this week, they can reflect on a game they should have won.
They had more chances than Galway — 24 shots to just 15.
Some of Mayo’s misses were very poor. We counted five balls that dropped short or went wide that were high percentage shots that should be going over.
Ryan O’Donoghue looked the only one of Mayo’s starting XV who you were confident would nail the ones that should be nailed.
Too many others were not near as reliable.
Mayo were dominant in terms of possession in the second half but could not reflect this on the scoreboard. When Galway were set up to defend, Mayo struggled to penetrate and when they did, the radar was off too often.
They conceded two very preventable goals while their own goal was a wonder strike that Galway will do well to find defensive fault in.
Add in Matthew Ruane’s extremely harsh black card in the second half and there were plenty of reasons why you can argue Mayo should have won this.
That being said, they found themselves a point down twice in injury-time and fashioned an equaliser each time. They showed plenty of character when the pressure was at its greatest.
There certainly are positives.
When you looked at the starting teams, you couldn’t help but think it was ‘advantage Galway’.
Mayo lined out with only six of the starting team that played Galway in last year’s Connacht championship while the Tribesmen had nine players who started both games.
So, playing well enough to be saying they should have beaten them is a positive but not actually getting it done is obviously frustrating.
But it still represented a good start for a Mayo team going through a lot of change, especially at the back.
They lined out without every single one of their All Star defenders of the past decade.
Indeed Stephen Coen (91) and Conor Loftus (63) each have comfortably more league and championship games under their belt than the combined 20 games of Rory Brickenden, Enda Hession, Jack Coyne and David McBrien.
Keeping Galway to 15 shots is fair going.
All of them played well.
McBrien looked well able physically for the warfare required to combat Damien Comer. Indeed, while Comer did score a point from play and an excellent mark point in the first half, it should be noted McBrien wasn’t on him for either score.
Both teams tackled like dervishes – in that sense it felt more like a championship game than the opening round of the league. After a slow start, Jordan Flynn really thrived in those exchanges, in the midst of so many Mayo turnovers of Galway possession.
Consider too that Mayo are adapting to a new approach under new management whereas Galway are far more in tune with their game plan at this stage in Padraig Joyce’s reign.
Plenty to work on but, for starters, it wasn’t bad.