Five reasons why we should win the Connacht final tomorrow

Mayo v GalwayWe’re back home where it’s fucking freezing, the grass needs cutting, the empty fridge needs to be restocked, we apparently have to do all the cooking and cleaning ourselves once more and life as we knew it prior to the acquisition of our suntans begins to reassert its hold on us. Back to reality, in other words.

And back in time for the Connacht final too: I’m heading west in the morning and I’m planning to rendezvous with PJ and The Brother in the City of the Tribes before we make our way over to that wind-swept hole in Salthill to see if our lads can record a long overdue win over our near neighbours in this year’s provincial decider. Maybe it’s the residue of the holiday feel-good factor that’s still washing around inside me but I’m confident enough that we’ll do the business tomorrow, maybe even with a bit to spare too.

Sure, it’s the Connacht final, it’s Galway v Mayo so the formbook leading into the game counts for little. Sure, it’s in Salthill where the wind is apparently going to blow and where it’ll probably rain too for good measure. And, sure, Galway will field a team populated with plenty of experience and talent and boasting a forward-line that could could inflict real damage on us.

In one sense, I’m loath to express confidence about our chances tomorrow. I recall being equally upbeat ahead of our last clash in Salthill two years ago and we got our holes well and truly kicked that day. And I’m old enough to remember other bitter days, most notably 1987 where we took the field knowing we had the beating of a declining Galway but where we somehow managed to lose by 0-8 to 0-7 in one of the worst Connacht finals ever. The fact that we went into that final having given Sligo a hiding that bears an uncanny resemblance to the one we gave Roscommon in this year’s semi-final should give us further cause for sober reflection heading into this one.

So, in putting forward some arguments as to why I think we’re win, I’m realistic enough to know that they could all turn out to be completely unfounded and that a long, depressing drive back home could – as it was last year – be my lot tomorrow evening. But the great thing about this rivalry is – unlike the much trumpeted Kerry/Dublin one – that it’s real. They may be top dogs more often than we are but we have our days too and we’re well overdue a good day against them.

Five factors could, I believe, point the game in our direction and the first of these is that we seem to be heading into this game with a management team that’s fully focused on the battle that lies ahead (which, for my money at least, patently wasn’t the case in 2007) and where arguably we’re fielding our strongest possible side (which, as the first twenty minutes of last year’s final showed so painfully, was far from the case then). In both of those past two clashes, we were put on the back foot early on and we never recovered. Fully prepared, focused on the job in hand and with the right players in the right positions, we seem to be ready for this one in a way we haven’t been in our recent clashes with the Tribesmen.

Mayo v RosThis means that the second factor – the way we start the game – stands a good chance of happening in the way that I believe it might. In both 2007 and again last year, we leaked two first half goals and were never able to overcome this handicap in the latter stages of these games. In 2007, it went from bad to worse for us while last year we had to use most of our bench to right the ship which meant that they had fresh legs to come in late on to swing that knife-edge clash back in their direction. If we start well tomorrow – hopefully by rattling their net for a change – we could well be on our way. Crucial to this will be how we fare at midfield and if Ronan, perhaps in his Man in the Iron Mask headgear (or Tom Parsons) rules the Salthill skies with David Heaney playing the crucial ball collector and deliverer role, the ball we can then pump into the forwards could cause immense damage to them at the back. Hopefully enough damage for us to open up a clear enough lead before the short whistle.

This third factor – the potency of our attack – is another reason to believe that we can pose more difficult questions for the Galway backline than we’ve been able to do for some time. The Galway backs are no chumps but, as we showed in 2006, if we own midfield we can start to overrun them at the back. With ball-winners like Barry Moran and Aidan O’Shea, a goal-hungry predator like Aidan Kilcoyne feeding off them and Alan DillonTwin Towers pulling the strings in the half-forwards, with Pat Harte rampaging through and Trevor doing what he does best, we could punish them severely. They’ve got plenty of talent themselves in their forward unit but if it does develop into a shoot-out, I’d be confident enough that they’ll hit the dust before we do.

Fourth, as TIALTNGO has already pointed out in his excellent match preview, our bench is far stronger than the Galway one is likely to be and the ability we’ll have to toss into the fray players of the calibre of Conor Mortimer, Tom Parsons and Donal Vaughan (providing both of them don’t start), Kevin McLoughlin, Billy Joe Padden and the rest is an option the Tribesmen simply won’t possess. Last year, they were the ones who were able to bring on fresh legs to telling effect in the final quarter (we’d used up most of ours on running repairs in the backline after that disastrous opening) but we’ll be the ones with that, possibly decisive, card to play tomorrow. No matter what negative comments may be made about Johnno – and I’ve made a few of them in my time – he has a proven ability of introducing game-changing players at the right time. If he does this tomorrow, he’ll be well on his way to recording his first championship win over the Herrin Chokers since returning to the hot seat in Mayo.

Finally, I believe that Liam Sammon’s decision to field Declan Meehan at corner-forward (where surely he will not be playing) shows (a) the lack of options available to them and (b) that Sammon is more concerned about what we might do to them rather than vice versa. The decision could, I know, end up being hailed as some kind of tactical masterstroke but I’m more of the view that it’ll unbalance the Galway team, possibly blunt their attack and won’t succeed in curbing the dangers we pose to them.

Connacht final 2006And so, for the above reasons, I’m going to be travelling west tomorrow morning in a fairly upbeat mood. I know full well, however, that this analysis could prove to be a long way wide of the mark and that I could be undertaking the return journey in a very different and rather chastened mood if the Herrin Chokers manage to complete a three-in-a-row over us. But I don’t think they will: victory is there to be seized by our lads tomorrow and, while the conditions might prove a bit hard for me to take after all the heat and the sun I’ve been enjoying of late, I’m hoping that the weather will be the last thing on my mind as I see the lads claim an overdue Connacht title.

2 thoughts on “Five reasons why we should win the Connacht final tomorrow

  1. Good to have you back WJ and to share the crap weather with the rest of us. Enjoyed the empty fridge bit, mine is almost empty and we havent gone anywhere yet, “are we poor?” the kids ask. Coming from a village where we started out(as children) with tilly lamps and no electricity I reply “we are getting there” . Anyway as regards tomorrows match I wont say anything stupid, having already made a total ass of myself as regards the Ros match. I know we can tan them and I know they can tan us. Toss the coin and hopefully we will do the job.

  2. Welcome home W. J. we missed you. Now let you all go to Galway tomorrow and kick “ass”. Do it for
    Mayo and for the “Old foggies” who saw Seán Flanagan lift Sam back in 51. I’d say we are getting a bit thin on the ground now

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