Galway 1-14 Mayo 2-12: Gardiner grabs the glory in frantic finale

Trev with NestorI promised last week that I wouldn’t mention the Salthill ‘hoodoo’ in advance of throw-in and I kept my word. Now that the match is over and with it the supposed hex that Galway had over us at that absolute hole of a venue, I feel it’s safe to mention it again. When Michael Meehan smashed in that injury-time leveller (having taken exactly how many steps, Mr Bannon?), it looked as if we’d have that particular monkey on our backs for a while longer. But fair play to the lads for keeping the cool, winning the next kick-out and with it a free that was channeled through to Peadar Gardiner who lamped it over to seal what felt like a truly historic victory.

It shouldn’t, of course, have come to that: when the Mortimer brothers combined to notch our second goal of the afternoon to put us seven up with ten minutes to play it looked as if the contest was over then. But that palmed effort by Conor finally sparked the defending champions to life and they fought tigerishly over those final frantic minutes to maintain their provincial crown and their 42-year unbeaten record against us at this truly horrendous hole of a venue.

They nearly did it and we’d have been kicking ourselves tonight had they done so because, in truth, we should have won this match with a bit to spare. The fact that we had to play the match in the worst county ground in the province (I did mention the fact that it’s an abominable hole, didn’t I?) with a gale blowing right down the field all day in a match officiated by a complete and utter tool – who gave every possible break to Galway in the second half – kinda skewed matters a bit. I’m convinced that had this match been played in McHale Park we’d have beaten them out the gate but – you know what? – doing them by the minimum margin in such dramatic circumstances on their own turf was far, far sweeter.

This was a match we needed to win, no question of that. It was only last night that I realised defeat could mean a showdown next weekend with the likes of Kerry (but of course those jammy fuckers went and drew Antrim this evening) so winning Connacht made more sense than ever as the best route to the All-Ireland series. It became clear early on when the hits started going in and where it was, in contrast to 2007, our lads doing most of the hitting that we were going to leave everything on the pitch in pursuit of this one.

Pre-match paradeOnce we’d settled down on the terrace (and there’s a lot of terracing in Pearse Stadium: it rings three-quarters of that hole of a ground, in fact) behind the town end goal – to see the minors cling on to get a slightly undeserved draw against Roscommon – and realised that a gale was blowing right in from the Atlantic, it immediately became clear that playing with the wind in the first half would be a big advantage to us, as it’d allow us to use the Twin Towers to get a good lead on the board. Our problems in 2007 and again last year stemmed from allowing Galway to build up a clear first-half lead and so if we were able to set the pace, we were unlikely to end up in the same fix.

That was the theory doing the round in my head (I’d parked the fact that we’d have to play the second half against the wind) and the early exchanges did seem to suggest that Galway would indeed have trouble coping with our rangy attack, as Killer pounced on a Barry Moran tapdown to put us two up following David Heaney’s opener.

But then the Knockmore man pulled a goal effort badly wide and two Nicky Joyce points from play brought them level. The dopey-eyed one was already giving Liam O’Malley a tough time and the Burrishoole man was eventually switched off Joyce midway through the half, with Donal Vaughan taking his place at the start of the second period. Keith Higgins was switched onto Joyce and soon enough he’d put some sort of manners on him in the way that Trevor Howley did so effectively with the more illustrious Joyce all day.

First-half actionBy the end of the first quarter, it was becoming obvious that we weren’t making great use of the wind. Bergin was doing well at midfield and Hanley won the first few tussles with Barry Moran and too often, it seemed, we were trying to run at them rather than use the wind to channel the ball inside. On the positive side, though, the lads were clearing working their nuts off and time and again were first to every 50:50 ball.

We opened up another two-point gap, following traded points by Heaney and Padraig Joyce, and Aidan O’Shea was involved in both. He scored the first himself and then provided the assist for a Pat Harte piledriver that was aimed for the net but which instead hit the crossbar and flew over.

And then, out of the blue, came Barry Moran’s goal. They gave the ball away stupidly to us, it reached Ronan in acres of space well out and he hit a high, hanging ball into the square where Barry and Hanley collided with it and the Mitchels man got the touch to put it over the line. Square ball? They didn’t bother analysing it as such tonight on The Sunday Game so it probably wasn’t.

Alan Dillon followed up the goal with a nice point from play created by a Barry Moran knockdown to put us six clear. Despite all those dark clouds that were punctuating that blue sky above us, the afternoon was starting to look up. If we pushed on from here, the job could be as good as done by half-time, I mused idly to myself but then Galway hit three on the spin to cut that handsome lead in half.

We then knuckled down and fired over three of our own – this one from Trevor, an absolute monster score by Ronan and then a lovely slow motion turn-and-shoot from Alan Dillon and we were six to the good once more. A Nicky Joyce free for them cut the lead to five at the break but it was interesting that all of our 1-9 half-time total had come from play.

Given the adverse conditions we’d be facing in the second half, it was a decent enough lead to have at that point, though we knew we could have done with a bit more, knowing as we did that Galway would return with interest the assault on the town end goal that we’d undertaken in the first half.

What we couldn’t have bargained for, however, was that ref John Bannon – who’d done reasonably okay in the opening 35 minute – would mutate into a complete and utter prick in the second half and would give almost every decision in Galway’s favour. (In case you think this is just me, The Sunday Game put the free count 35-19 in Galway’s favour for the afternoon and I’d challenge anyone to justify why they got nearly twice as many frees as we did over the course of the seventy minutes). With the wind and the ref behind behind them in that second period, a trying 35 minutes it turned out to be.

We made two changes at half-time, with Aidan Kilcoyne slightly unlucky to be hauled off in favour of Conor (though Conor was always going to feature for at least half the game) and Liam O’Malley in no way unlucky to be replaced by Donal Vaughan. Conor made his presence felt within just four minutes of the restart, intercepting a sloppy pass out from one of the Galway backs and thumping it over. Bannon was making his presence felt too with the first of a number of ridiculously soft frees but the normally dead-eye Meehan was off target from the placed ball and this miss was followed up with two more howlers from play.

second-half actionFrom our vantage point behind the goal we were defending in the second half, it was all looking messy and chaotic around the middle in that third quarter of the game. Scores were hard to come by but bookings surprisingly easy – who would have bet in advance of the game that the first two yellow cards of the days would be flashed at Alan Dillon and Mike Meehan? Then Ger Cafferkey – who did well on Meehan all day – got booked for what looked to me like a legitimate challenge on the Caltra man while no sanction was imposed on the Galway man who took down Pat Harte with a rugby tackle a few minutes later.

Three stupid frees yielded three worrying points for them and so, with fifteen minutes to go, the lead was back to three. Mort then pointed our only score all day from a free before Trevor set him up for the goal that should have set us on our way with ten minutes left to play.

While Meehan’s equalising score was the stuff of nightmares for those of us standing (yes, standing, like most of the punters had to do today) behind that goal, we had already been well warned about such a possibility five minutes earlier when Kenneth O’Malley superbly turned over the bar a goalbound effort from the Galway no.14. That score had cut the gap to five and then further points from Nicky Joyce and Sean Armstrong reduced it to three.

The keep-ball fuckology was predictably highlighted on TSG tonight and, in one sense, rightly so but if the tactic had got us over the line, it would have been hailed as a bit of mastery. As it was, the one time we broke out of a passing sequence to have a pop, Pat Harte screwed a truly awful effort yards wide.

Full-timeWhat was really heartening, though, was the way we reacted to Meehan’s goal. The lads immediately switched on the offensive button and went hunting for the winning point. Peadar Gardiner deserves great credit for galloping forward to give the option for the quick pass from the free (which Conor wanted to take but thank Christ he couldn’t get his hands on the ball) and, of course, he’ll get all the plaudits for the superb way that he banged over the winner.

And so we’re back, at last, in the All-Ireland series, for the first time since 2006. This is the third Connacht title we’ve won since the current format came into being and we remain the only Connacht champions since 2001 to have ever got further than the quarter-finals. In both 2004 and again 2006, we made it all the way to the final itself. Can we do so again? Could we go one better? You’d never know: after today’s historic win, we’ll fear nobody and with all the babble about Tyrone and the Dubs and Kerry and Micko and all the rest, we’ll arrive into the All-Ireland series completely under the radar. That’ll suit Johnno down to the ground and it could mean that his team could well give us even more enjoyable days this summer than today’s heartstopping one eventually proved to be.

MAYO: Kenneth O’Malley; Liam O’Malley, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Peadar Gardiner (0-1), Trevor Howley, Andy Moran; David Heaney (0-2), Ronan McGarritty (0-1); Pat Harte (0-1), Alan Dillon (0-2), Trevor Mortimer (0-1); Aidan Kilcoyne (0-1), Barry Moran (1-0), Aidan O’Shea (0-1). Subs: Donal Vaughan for Liam O’Malley, Conor Mortimer (1-2, one free) for Kilcoyne, Mark Ronaldson for Barry Moran, Tom Parsons for Heaney.

9 thoughts on “Galway 1-14 Mayo 2-12: Gardiner grabs the glory in frantic finale

  1. I thought that we could have really opened them up in the first 10 minutes but seemed to suffer a crisis of confidence. Again at the end, Johnno seemed to be using Ronaldson to contain the lead rather than push on and put them away.
    We have the lads here that can give us one hell of a Summer. There is a lot more in them that the one point victory suggests – but they have to believe in themselves.
    But what a way to win it. Gardiner has balls of steel to take and plant that shot at the end! Always proud to be a Mayoman, but particularly proud today.

    Keep the Faith!

  2. Good performance which suggests there may be more in the tank; the way Johnno wound down the game would have been a major embarrasment if PGardiner hadn’t popped up, but he got away with the gamble of giving lads a run. Re the free count, I’m not a fan of Bannon, dunno what was up with his schizophrenic performance today, but watching on tv I did notice Mayo have adopted the Tyrone tactic of fouling in the half forward line allowing players to get back and backs to locate their man. It works, so go with it.
    Completely agree about Pearse Stadium- they had the chance to sell up and build an all-seater stadium (with adjoining parking!) near the big roundabout in Oranmore but politics dictated perma-windy Salthill was to be refurbished instead. And the Connacht Council have co-operated by fixing as many games as possible there. Thanks, folks.
    Donegal could well do Galway in Rd 4…

  3. Great win, my heart stopped after Meehans goal, couldn’t believe we’d let them back into, but fair play to Peadar for popping tht over.
    We wont have to worry about that ref again, he’s retiring from inter-county at the end of the year. Heaney’s yellow card was a complete joke, pushed and shoved by at least to Galwaymen before he gave one back, I think Meehan might have been the first fella to push and he was already on a yellow but the ref bottled any decision anyway.
    Apparently Killer had a hamstring strain but Conor did the job we expect of him though I hope he refrains from using his undershirt as a mass card again.
    There is more to come from this team and they’ll learn from Galways near comeback, I think those few minutes might well lead the lazy journalists and tv analysts to write us off as same old Mayo. It might be an interesting end to the summer.

  4. Well done everyony – even if my old heart nearly stopped two minutes into injury time. I thought that bit of messing and passing the the ball like a bunch of school girls that let Galway in for the equaliser was just awful stuff but we just got away with it. I still may welcome Sam to Mayo again or is that wishful thinking?

  5. well done lads there is real struture in this team .just as well we only won by one point ‘ we cant get carried away’ supporters and players game at a time and one point will do nicely untill the big day which is comming soon .
    what the fuck was that keep the ball tatic ?
    plus joe bergin was being a hard man all day what a knacker. well done again mayo.

  6. Well done one and all. A great day in Salthill to record a victory. in all honesty I didn’t care about the traffic not after the result leastways. I think there is no need to get carried away though. we did only win by 1 but 1 is always enough. There is more to develop and to come from these lads and I think but it would be foolish talk to be dreaming yet. Only thought I had about it after the match was a hope that Galway get beaten by someone along the way – as the last thing I would like to see is us playing them in an All Ireland Final !!!

  7. great win lads, heart stopping stuff there at the end. what a way to finelly break that hodo in that HOLE OF A GROUND. did anyone notice it was the same score as last year! can we go all the way this year, in 04 we started in new york, and won CF, in 06 we started in london and won CF, this year we started in new york again and won CF, CAN WE DO IT THIS YEAR?????

  8. a great day and a memorable win
    i thought that the tackling, tracking and blocking was superb all throughout the game.
    conceding frees out of range a la Tyrone (apart from the last few minutes)
    the fitness work has paid off so far
    has anyone else noticed the confidence from some players to go for their points that wasn’t there 3 or 4 years ago (Ronan, Paedar, DH) – and we have less frees
    does that have anything to do with Conor not being on to take stupid shots?
    there were 10 different players on the scoreboard yesterday
    i didn’t see one player back down from the physical stuff on or off the ball, especially Alan Dillon, given his size
    i can’t respond to the survey because i don’t know who we will get in which round, but i don’t think we should fear anyone at the moment
    Kerry usually beat Mayo, Tyrone usually beat Kerry, Mayo have never feared Tyrone.
    like boxing, its about styles and we need to adjust when we have to depending on who we play and without coughing up scores when the opponents have the momentum
    we have the potential to go all the way this year, luck of the draw and the referee may decide how far we go

  9. I have to disagree with your comment Willie Joe “Mayo were first to every 50:50 ball” . Galway won more 50:50 balls(e.g. Moran/Hanley, Kilcoyne/Burke Meehan/Cafferkey Joyce/O’Malley Blake/Harte) but wasted a huge amount of it.
    Look at the match again.

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