Photo: @L0ftus21 via Twitter
The scoreline from Elvery’s MacHale Park suggests a tight match in the Connacht U21 semi-final but in reality Galway were always in control and were never put under the cosh by their hosts.
The Tribesmen could even afford to go the final 19 minutes of the game without registering a score and still run out comfortable winners.
Mayo opened the scoring through Darren McHale but Galway had four scores on the board before Stephen Coen added another for Mayo. Even at the early stages of the game it was clear that the Galway captain Damien Comer was running the show as he had two points on the board and a hand in Galway’s other two scores.
Conor Loftus and another Coen point had Mayo on level terms after 20 minutes before a black card each changed the complexion of the game with Diarmuid O’Connor going off for Mayo while Johnny Heaney saw black for the visitors. Both cards were warranted for third man tackles.
While Mayo were waiting to bring on TJ Byrne in place of O’Connor, Comer had the ball in the Bacon Factory End goal to give Galway a three-point lead.
Further points from Comer and Eamon Brannigan against one from Byrne saw the Tribesmen go into the break four points to the good.
The second half began much as the first had ended with some sloppy play by Mayo being punished by Galway as the visitors opened the scoring through Conor Cunningham. A James Durcan free kept the hosts in touch but even at this early stage in the half it looked like a consolation score.
Durcan and Adam Gallagher traded points with Gary Kelly before the visitors went on a quick scoring spree with Brannigan and two from Comer bringing their total to 1-12, a total which would not be caught.
Amazingly Galway did not score after that but also never looked out of their comfort zone even as Gallagher and two more Durcan frees brought Mayo to within four points.
Niall Heffernan’s men desperately needed a goal and Brian Reape did have the ball in the Galway net on the 60th minute but it was correctly ruled out for a push in the back.
With that free out went Mayo’s chances of a miraculous comeback in the dying moments as Galway played keep ball and kicked two wides to run down the clock.
Mayo helped them in that regard when Patrick Durcan was sent off just into injury time for a dangerously high tackle on Galway wing back Liam Silke. It was the correct decision by the referee and we will wait and see how that could affect the Castlebar Mitchels player’s involvement in Pairc Ui Rinn on Sunday week.
Mayo, much like their senior counterparts against Dublin, looked devoid of a gameplan for much of the game and when put under pressure defensively did not have an answer for the direct running of the Galway forwards.
Losing O’Connor to a black card during that first half really turned the tide in favour of the visitors but it is hard to know if the Ballintubber midfielder would have been able to stem the tide.
That’s it for another U21 season as Mayo still go in search of back-to-back wins in Connacht for the first time since 2009, general consensus tells us that it could be another man on the sideline giving that a crack in 2016 as the 2013 All-Ireland winning minor team take centre-stage at this level.
Mayo: Matthew Flanagan, Kevin Lynch, David Kenny, James Stretton, Patrick Durcan, Stephen Coen (0-2), Sean Regan, Diarmuid O’Connor, Val Roughneen, Matthew Ruane, Adam Gallagher (0-2), Darren McHale (0-1), Michael Hall, Conor Loftus (0-1), James Durcan (0-4,4f)
Subs: Michael Plunkett for McHale (8), Cian Burke for Lynch (20), TJ Byrne (0-1) for O’Connor (22,black card), Eoghan Lavin for Roughneen (HT), Eddie Doran for Stretton (48), Brian Reape for Plunkett (48).
Galway: Tadhg O’Malley, Eoghan Kerin, Jack Wyndam, Kieran Molloy, Johnny Heaney, Adrian Nolan, Liam Silke, Michael Day (0-1), Dylan Corbett, Enda Tierney, Damien Comer (1-5, 1 ’45), Colin Brady, Michael Daly, Gary Kelly (0-3,2f), Eamon Brannigan (0-2).
Subs: Conor Cunningham (0-1) for Heaney (20,BC), Eoin Finnerty for Daly (38), Dylan Wall for Kelly (48), Paul Mannion for Comer (52,BC), Joe Donnellan for Brannigan (60).
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon