Every now and then it hits me forcefully that the blog really has been in existence rather a long time. Since early 2007, in fact, and so this means that for matches against our major rivals, there’s a fair bit of source material here on the blog from matches going back quite a number of years.
As we await the release of match-day panel details for Sunday – with Galway’s announcement expected tonight and ours at some point in the morning – I thought it would be interesting to reach across time and look back on a few of the Championship encounters we’ve had with Galway for which I’ve written match reports here on the blog.
There are fourteen matches to choose from – eight of which we’ve won, six in which they came out on top – and, for the purposes of this piece, I’ve picked five. They’re not necessarily the all-time top ones from this era – for example, the Croke Park Connacht final of 2021 isn’t included – and they comprise a mixture of matches won (three) and lost (two) but I wanted to pick ones that either said something about the blog’s development or games that marked turning points in the rivalry. Here goes.
2007: first cut is a painful one
I had lofty ambitions when I started the blog in February 2007. John O’Mahony had just been appointed Mayo manager for the second time and, soft fool that I was, I believed that his return could be the missing ingredient that would finally shunt us gleefully over the line (although Johnno, to be fair, never made any claims that he would do so).
We got to a League final that spring and although we lost, it looked as if our curve was an upward one. Then we met Galway at Pearse Stadium in the first round of the Connacht Championship in late May and suffered a chastening reversal.
My match report for the blog on that one was written by someone still very much feeling his way into this genre. It was also a piece read by a tiny audience: the page-view count on the day the match was played came to 46 and you’ll notice no comments appear below the report. So this was me essentially sounding off rather shrilly to myself.
The criticisms made in the match report of the ref – Joe McQuillan: incredibly, he’s still on the roster today – are best described as uncharitable and my tone comes across a good deal mouthier than I hope it does today. There are no team details (though they’re all filed away in the results archive), there’s no MOTM poll and there’s even a quaint reference to GPRS (that came before 3G, never mind 4G or 5G, kids).
I won’t lie, I’m squirming here reading it. Have a look yourselves – it’s here.
2009: Gardiner seals it at the death
Two years on, my naïve hopes about being there to record our entrance to Nirvana had dulled. We’d lost again to Galway in the 2008 final and here we were again, back in Salthill, staring down the barrel of three Championship losses in a row to the neighbours.
On this July day, I finally got a performance to write about, on a day when we fielded the Twin Towers in the full-forward line, Conor Mortimer came off the bench to score a goal to put us seven up with ten to go, revealing his immortal “RIP Micheal Jackson” t-shirt in the score’s aftermath, we then promptly blew that match-winning lead (yes, we never seem to learn, do we?) before Peadar Gardiner snatched a dramatic winner and all was well with the world.
In my match report on this one, I was still crabbing about the ref – John Bannon this time – and my criticisms of the match venue couldn’t be accused of being too even-handed either. Mouthiness was still dominating the tone, as you can see here.
2013: Tribesmen thumped
Hands up who was in Tuam for the 1982 Connacht final?
Well, I was and it was, by some distance, the worst day following Mayo when facing Galway in the Championship. We lost by sixteen points that day, we were beaten out the proverbial gate on a humiliating afternoon for the county.
But it’s a long road that has no turning. Ten years ago, in James Horan’s third season in charge first time around, we went to Salthill and inflicted on Galway an absolutely unmerciful whipping, beating them by 17 points. It was bloody glorious.
I was fairly licking my chomps when I opened up the laptop to write the match report on this one. It all but wrote itself, in truth, so complete the performance had been and so total the destruction we’d visited on the neighbours.
The report reads, to my mind, closer in style to what I’d write now, but it’s far longer than match reports I pen now, which I tend to bash out rapidly as they’ve become more a commodity now compared to then. I see Michael Maye’s super photos also grace this report and I even snatched some video of Andy’s late goal. This one’s a keeper – it’s here.
2016: a rude reversal
We’d won Connacht five times in a row. We’d almost forgotten when we’d last been beaten by our provincial rivals. We rocked up to MacHale Park on a miserably drizzly June evening expecting more of the same but we were in for a shock and our first Championship defeat to Galway in eight years.
Things I remember from that night included the unbridled joy of the Galway supporters singing The Fields of Athenry on the pitch after the match was over, being asked by Galway fans outside the ground what date the Connacht final was on and wondering in return when we might expect to be playing our first qualifier game.
It was too, as I recall, the first time I met up with Rob at a match as we forged the first links between the blog and the podcast, a connection that has grown, involving Mike too, into a collective enterprise in the years since then.
My match report for the blog includes a post-match audio piece – I only discontinued doing these last year, as our Final Whistle shows on the podcast cover this ground far better – and the MOTM poll was now a feature too. The report’s only a short one – I had, if my memory serves me correctly, some drinking to do that night – but I think it captures the downbeat mood okay. It’s here.
2019: Carr’s rocket opens the road to victory
For most Mayo supporters, 2016 and 2017 are likely to be remembered fondly, albeit in a bittersweet way, as we came as close as we’ve ever done to reaching the Promised Land. We gave our all and more in both year’s finals and, even all these years on, I still cannot fully comprehend how we didn’t manage to come out on the right side of two deciders that were, essentially, as close as a coin-toss. Against a team already being lauded as the greatest of all time.
Which made our stumbling against Galway, not just in 2016 but in 2017 and 2018 as well, all the more difficult to comprehend. The Tribesmen were aiming to become a force in the game again but Kevin Walsh’s sole ambition – or so it appeared to us – was to beat Mayo. It was irksome in the extreme from our point of view that his team did just that three years on the trot in Connacht.
So, when we got paired with them in Round 4 of the qualifiers in 2019, there was almost an air of desperation to our need for a win. We hadn’t met them in Connacht that summer – Roscommon saw to that – but now we were facing them for the right to advance to the so-called Super 8s, in an all-or-nothing, knockout tie.
Everything was on the line that night in Limerick, a venue we approached with trepidation, given what had befallen us there against Kerry in 2014, not to mention the fact that, once again, Kevin Walsh was at the helm for them. But we had James Horan, whose record up till then against Galway was an impeccable one and, in a contest graced by a wonder goal from James Carr, we recorded our first Championship win over them in four years.
My match report, which, in style, more or less mirrors how I write them now, is here.
Here’s hoping I’ll be tapping out a report with similar sentiments on Sunday. One thing’s for sure, though, regardless of the result, I will be doing a match report here on the blog once it’s over.