A draw can feel like a loss or it can feel like a win. When Ryan O’Donoghue launched a screamer into the night sky at the Galway posts deep in stoppage time tonight, the enormous roar that went around MacHale Park showed what the home fans felt about the result the Belmullet man had pulled from the fire for us.
This was a match we should really have won, having largely dominated the play after the break. Equally, though, it’s a game we could have lost, that careless concession of Galway’s second goal putting them in the driving seat against the run of play and then Kevin McLoughlin’s clumsy foul early in injury time giving Comer the easiest of conversions fourteen yards out to nudge them back in front. I guess the only conclusion was that the draw was the fairest result.
We made two changes before throw-in. Donnacha McHugh and Fionn McDonagh didn’t start and they were replaced by David McBrien and Bob Tuohy, the latter joining Colm Reape and Jack Coyne in making his League debut tonight.
There was a real air of anticipation around MacHale Park under the lights tonight. A huge crowd of 13,654 came through the gates for this encounter and what they saw was a cagey enough contest, in which fortunes shifted back and over for much of the evening.
Galway drew first blood, with Ryan cancelling McDaid’s opener with the first of what would end up as a seven-point haul. Comer then put them in front before we landed the first significant blow of the night.
It came courtesy of James Carr, whose thunderous shot to the net had echoes of a similar score against the same opposition in the qualifiers in Limerick back in 2019.
Almost immediately, Galway responded with a goal of their own. Johnny Heaney launched a long ball in where Matthew Tierney outmuscled Aiden Orme to flick it past Colm Reape to the net. Paul Kelly added a point from the restart.
Ryan steadied us with one from play and then Rob Finnerty, after Galway had held possession for a few minutes, put them two up again. That was his last contribution, as he was carried from the field soon after.
Jordan Flynn, making space in a crowded sector thirty yards out, shot over a nice score. That, though, was our final point of the half, in a period where, despite the fact that Galway had Eoghan Kelly in the sin-bin, we weren’t able to make use of our numerical advantage.
The half finished in frustrating fashion for us. James Carr (twice) and Ryan had shots that fell short, Aiden Orme put a free from the sideline wide and then Matthew Ruane thrashed a wild shot wide from a good position. Galway deserved the two-point lead they took into the break.
We were brighter on the resumption. Mattie clipped over a nice score, after a wonderful feed from Bob Tuohy (who enjoyed a hugely positive debut), Ryan popped over a free and then Diarmuid landed one from distance, the ball dropping sharply to land on top of the net.
We were now one to the good and appeared to be gaining the upper hand in this contest. Then Galway’s full-back Seán Kelly waltzed through our backline, a neat give and go putting him clear in on goal and he made no mistake.
Paul Conroy, in the thick of the action despite his father having passed away the other day, landed one from distance. He does like to score against us and a great score it was.
Galway had their tails up now. We brought on Aidan O’Shea and Eoghan McLaughlin, though, and slowly the tide began to shift in our favour.
Another Ryan free cut the gap to two. Bob Tuohy then notched a fine score off his left but when Mattie got black carded for something that had the Galway sideline extremely agitated about – Joyce and his colleagues on the sideline did a great job in the performative outrage department throughout – that looked like a hammer blow for us.
But the visitors failed to press home their advantage on the scoreboard. Then McDaid rugby tackled Aidan to the ground and he was in the sin-bin too.
Another foul on Aidan, on the 14-yard line while the ball was out the middle, gave Ryan the easiest of chances to level it up. He made no mistake. Just then Cillian O’Connor trotted on to join the fray.
As Mattie came back on, Galway were awarded a free over fifty yards out. Peter Cooke, who’d replaced Rob Finnerty in the first half, drove it over off the ground to edge them back in front.
The atmosphere was now bordering on febrile, with supporters on both sides sensing this was a game that could go either way. When we shot two poor wides, Eoghan and Ryan the culprits, it looked like we’d come up short.
Then Cillian landed one from out the left wing, an almighty roar greeting that levelling score.
We’d all have taken a draw then. The game was now in what would eventually run to six minutes of stoppage time, but there were still two twists to come.
When Kevin McLoughlin conceded the foul that led to Comer’s tap-over free, that really did look like it for us. But then in the dying seconds, Ryan’s outrageous strike from out on the left hauled us level and snatched for us a wholly deserved draw.
It would have been enormously frustrating, not just for Kevin McStay and his management team but for the players and supporters too, had we failed to get anything from this one. We were on top for long stretches but absent Ryan’s late, late strike, the post-match narrative would have been all about the chances we’d failed to take and how we’d let the match slip from our grasp.
The fact that we snatched something tangible from the game, with a far less experienced selection compared to the team they togged with, makes this feel instead like a positive opening to this year’s League campaign for us. Yes, this draw did feel in large part like a win. We’re off and running once again.
Mayo: Colm Reape; Jack Coyne, Rory Brickenden, Enda Hession; Stephen Coen, Conor Loftus, David McBrien; Matthew Ruane (0-1), Diarmuid O’Connor; Bob Tuohy (0-1), Jack Carney, Jordan Flynn (0-1); Aiden Orme, James Carr (1-0), Ryan O’Donoghue (0-6, four frees). Subs: Aidan O’Shea for Orme, Eoghan McLaughlin for Diarmuid O’Connor, Cillian O’Connor (0-1) for Carr, Kevin McLoughlin for Carney, Paul Towey for Tuohy.
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Who was our MOTM against Galway? Pick your top three performers
- Ryan O'Donoghue (29%, 877 Votes)
- Matthew Ruane (16%, 484 Votes)
- Jordan Flynn (14%, 438 Votes)
- Bob Tuohy (7%, 227 Votes)
- Enda Hession (7%, 209 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (6%, 181 Votes)
- David McBrien (5%, 155 Votes)
- James Carr (5%, 145 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (2%, 70 Votes)
- Jack Coyne (2%, 53 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (1%, 40 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (1%, 37 Votes)
- Rory Brickenden (1%, 24 Votes)
- Paul Towey (1%, 22 Votes)
- Aiden Orme (1%, 22 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (1%, 21 Votes)
- Colm Reape (1%, 19 Votes)
- Jack Carney (1%, 17 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (0%, 12 Votes)
- Eoghan McLaughlin (0%, 7 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,626