First of all I thought we fought very well to get back into the game in the first half.
Someone said to me at half-time that it was now ours to lose especially with the strong breeze at our backs coming up. In my heart I felt this as well but at the same time having seen enough football through the years I responded that sometimes teams played better into the wind than with it.
And of course this is what happened on Sunday, with our lads unable to find the required composure to shoot from distance and Galway getting nearly all the scores in the second half into the breeze, albeit mostly on the break.
A few other things stood out. Shane Walsh was quiet from play overall but his 45s and free kicks from the ground into the wind in the second half were instrumental in the resulting win for Galway.
As someone said on The Sunday Game, these were “clutch” kicks that all came off for Walsh. There was one of these of particular note I felt – the one that came off the post and went over.
Normally when a free from distance like that hits a post it either bounces back into play or goes wide. It’s rare when it goes over and once I saw it happen, I felt it as a sign that this was going to be Galway’s day. And of course on the other hand for us, Cillian had a 45 with the wind that went wide and also a free that also tailed left.
And yet we still only lost by a point. But in truth it would have been robbery if we had beaten them with that second half performance. Even though they fell over the line we could not produce enough in the second half to justify a result in that game. Certainly, the loss of Oisín Mullin severely restricted our pace and punch through the lines. And this was really required to try and break that stubborn Galway double cloak. And I felt that if Paddy Durcan had been there he would have provided the drive to push us on to win that game.
The switch of Aido into FF as well is one that didn’t come off for us. (Has it ever worked in fairness throughout his career?) In fact the last day it had an even more negative effect. I’m not sure who exactly was picking up Paul Conroy before this but certainly he was very quiet while Aido was operating around the middle third. However when he went inside it culminated in Conroy making hay at the other end and coming away with several points from play.
As the game wore on and Galway could see the finishing line they clearly became more edgy and desperate. Frankly I thought they let us back in to the game just as much as we upped the tempo. This is, though, normal enough for a young team. I believe that if we were to meet Galway again they will have learned big time from this game and they won’t make this mistake again if 5/6 points up while going down the stretch. And that is definitely something that management need to be aware of.
Overall our management have several questions to ask themselves. Primarily to do with changes in the second half when it clearly wasn’t working for us on the field.
Our subs though were okay, I thought. I understand why Orme was introduced as he was there to play the passes in. He did on a few occasions and Carr won frees from resulting from possession from Orme’s kicks. Yes Orme’s last point attempt was rash but hopefully he will learn from that.
Darren McHale should however should have been introduced much sooner as he is a good player with constant movement who gets involved in the game. He could have offered us more threat especially when we were so quiet and lacked that penetration in the second half.
For us, though, we have to accept the loss and recognise that Galway were the better team for the majority of that game. But we shouldn’t feel too downhearted. The game really had a league tempo to it I felt and there were no big hard hits that you would expect in championship. It was only in the final five minutes that a real championship intensity came into it from Mayo.
Whether our team can reproduce this intensity over a longer period is the biggest question going forward. If they can and then can further sustain this for say 30/40 minutes in the game they are a match for any team in the country.
If, however, the toll of losing last year’s final and this year’s bad league final defeat is hanging over this team then, well frankly, we’re better off outta it this year and taking a break to re-energise a few batteries, look at alternatives and get over some horrific injuries. We will see.