It’s still only pre-season so the win we recorded over Galway in this evening’s FBD League semi-final, played in the Dome at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, doesn’t really count as the first win for the county under the management of Kevin McStay. It’s still a sweet one, though, not least in light of the fact that it’s the first time we’ve got the better of the Tribesmen in the FBD since way back in 2010.
The extremely experimental starting line-up we fielded this evening, along with the bunch of newbies we had on the bench, suggested that our main focus from this game was to get game time into as many players as possible. Galway seemed to have a similar enough mindset, though they had a small bit more in the way of experienced heads on from the start and were also able to call on more established performers from the bench.
I only saw the first half of this game, on the Connacht GAA livestream, as I was heading to Croke Park to shout for Tooreen in the hurling (more on that anon). The half of the game I did see was one where Mayo took a decisive hold on proceedings, tackling hard all over the field and pushing up aggressively on Galway’s restarts. First half goals from Paul Towey and James Carr – after an outrageous fifty-yard delivery from Rory Brickenden – helped to push our lads ten clear at the break.
Galway obviously didn’t want to depart from the Dome having suffered a total scutching so they understandably beefed up their challenge for the second half, for which they made four changes. One of the replacements, Tomo Culhane, had a major hand in Galway’s second half revival, bagging two goals, while Damien Comer, introduced a bit later in the second half, was also to the fore in helping to propel them back into contention.
Culhane’s second goal whittled our lead – which had stretched to eleven points early in the second half – down to just two. Rory Byrne then made an important stop from another Galway sub, Nathan Grainger, before Bob Tuohy, who’d started the game in place of Conor McStay, had the final say on the scoreboard, his closing score sealing a three-point win for our lads. We won at the finish by 2-18 to 3-12.
So, tonight’s win sees us qualify for a first FBD final since 2012, which was also the most recent time we claimed pre-season provincial bragging rights. That’s enough to warm hearts on a bitterly cold January night but, from Kevin McStay’s point of view, being able to bag the win while at the same time seeing so many fringe players in action will surely have been doubly pleasing.
This year’s FBD final is on at the Dome next Friday evening, pitting Kevin McStay for the first time against Roscommon, his former charges. That’s another one he’ll want to win, while also continuing to experiment ahead of the start of the National League at the end of this month.
Mayo: Rory Byrne; Jack Coyne, Rory Brickenden, Sam Callinan; Fenton Kelly, Stephen Coen, Donnacha McHugh; Matthew Ruane (0-1), Jordan Flynn; Fionn McDonagh (0-1), Bob Tuohy (0-1), Bryan Walsh (0-3); Aiden Orme (0-5, one free), James Carr (1-2), Paul Towey (1-4, two frees). Subs: Gavin Durcan for Carr, Connell Dempsey for Walsh, Kuba Callaghan (0-1) for McDonagh, Conor Dunleavy for Kelly, Fenton Kelly for Coyne (blood), Ronan Carolan for Towey.
Our Final Whistle pod, reviewing this evening’s match in the Dome, is now online for club members.