That was more than a little frustrating.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, we’d reduced the deficit to just a single point and all the game’s momentum in our favour, aided by the strong wind at our backs, all we needed to do was drive on and win it. Instead, we lost our way entirely and Galway righted themselves sufficiently to eke out a deserved two-point win.
The conditions were always going to have a major impact on this contest. The wind blew hard all evening, diagonally into the bacon factory end, and it was obvious that whichever side had it at their backs for the first half would have the opportunity to run up a lead at the break.
Galway won the toss and unsurprisingly opted to play with the wind. Although we got the night’s first score – from a Jason Doherty free – they had four points on the board without reply with less than ten minutes played.
David Clarke’s kickouts – boomed high up in the air where his men had little or no chance of claiming possession – were the root cause of these scores as Galway claimed the ball from the restarts and shot from distance.
A second free from Jason cut the deficit, though, and after Cummins belted another wind-assisted one over for them, another free by the Burrishoole man brought the gap back again to two.
Then Galway had two of their players – Michael Daly and Barry McHugh – black carded in quick succession. Shorn of two of their fifteen, that should have made Galway’s swarming blanket a bit more porous. We failed, however, to add to our total while the two Galway lads were kicking their heels on the sideline.
Instead, we contrived to concede a really poor goal while they still had only the thirteen players on the field. We got caught out by a long ball in, which was gathered by Heaney and he lofted it over David Clarke’s head to Cummins who pawed it to the net.
At half-time we trailed by 1-7 to 0-3 and the night looked ominous for us. Sure, we’d now have the wind with us but the poor way we’d managed the conditions in the first half didn’t augur well for how we’d handle things in the second half.
Early on after the break those fears seemed to be well-founded. Ten minutes into the half and we were still six in arrears, with a point from play by Mattie Ruane and another free from Jason for us and a Walsh free for them.
Then, after we’d made our second switch – with Andy Moran coming on for Stephen Coen, Kevin McLoughlin having replaced James Durcan at the break – we suddenly began to motor. Five points without reply sailed over the bar at the bacon factory end, to leave us just one down with a full fifteen minutes left to play.
We definitely should have won it from there. We had plenty of chances too but we butchered one opportunity after another, while at the other end we conceded three daft frees within range, all of which were converted by Shane Walsh. And that was where the game was won and lost.
It was deep in injury time before we managed to score again – after a barren spell that had lasted all of twenty minutes – but those two points, from Diarmuid O’Connor and Donal Vaughan, came too late, merely reducing the eventual losing margin to two points.
So it’s a first ever loss to Galway for James Horan in a competitive fixture. It also continues the miserable head-to-head we’ve had against them, where we’ve lost every single match we’ve played them in since 2016.
This defeat means that, for sure, we won’t need to plan for a League final this year. Instead we have to keep an eye on what’s happening below us in the table, as we’re still not completely sure of retaining our top tier status for next year. Those worries aren’t likely to be eased next time out – as we face a tough away fixture against table-toppers Kerry – which could mean we’ll be going into our final round match, against Monaghan, needing something from it to stay up.
That wasn’t how we saw the script playing out after winning the first three matches. It’s where we’re at now, though, and it’s up to us to do what we need to do to end this campaign having ensured that we’ll still be playing Division One football next year.
Mayo: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Stephen Coen; Matthew Ruane (0-1), Donal Vaughan (0-1); Fionn McDonagh, Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1); James Durcan, Darren Coen (0-1), Jason Doherty (0-7, six frees). Subs: Kevin McLoughlin for Durcan, Andy Moran (0-1) for Stephen Coen, Brian Reape for McDonagh.
Who was our Man of the Match against Galway? Pick your top three performers
- Matthew Ruane (35%, 374 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (17%, 179 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (9%, 92 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (8%, 89 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (8%, 81 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (4%, 42 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (3%, 32 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (3%, 28 Votes)
- Darren Coen (3%, 28 Votes)
- David Clarke (2%, 23 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (2%, 22 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (2%, 17 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (1%, 15 Votes)
- Andy Moran (1%, 11 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (1%, 9 Votes)
- Brian Reape (1%, 8 Votes)
- James Durcan (1%, 6 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (0%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 661
A quick word about the ladies, who also lost to Galway this evening – this one finished 1-11 to 0-8 in Galway’s favour.
The visitors were six points to four up at the break but with the wind at their backs in the second half they gradually pulled away and, once they’d bagged the game’s only goal, the result was never in doubt.
So it’s one win from four for Peter Leahy’s side in this year’s League campaign. Despite that, though, the team is going okay this year and providing they keep playing in the same confident manner they’ll surely soon start to see the results going in their direction.