From the highs of Round 2 to the lows of Round 4, Mayo are down, not out but they need snookers in the Connacht minor football championship. A seven-point home loss to Galway tonight, on a scoreline of 2-12 to 0-11, marked a second straight defeat for the Green and Red and it leaves them needing Sligo to beat Roscommon on the final weekend to keep their hopes alive.
This was no thriller, Mayo edged a poor first half in terms of the balance of play with most of the ball and the bulk of the scoring chances coming their way but the sides were locked together at four points apiece at the break. Galway had converted four of their seven shots at goal, Mayo managed just four from 13 attempts and had a spell of 19 minutes without a point after opening up with two quick points.
The second half was a different story however as the sides traded scores in a barnstorming few minutes of play before Galway started to take control and pull clear. By the midway point of the half their lead was three and Mayo were in trouble, struggling even to get within shooting range.
The killer blow then came on 54 minutes as Warren Seoige was adjudged to have been fouled in the square and Tomo Culhane crowned a fine afternoon with a penalty. That was that, Mayo fought back through a succession of Mylett frees but a late Niall Cunningham goal sealed a fine win for the lad in Maroon who are now one win over Leitrim away from securing a place in the final.
It took Mayo three shots at the posts to find their range in this game and Irwin was their catalyst in that regard as he kicked a couple of neat points under very little minimal pressure into the Albany end. The scores quickly dried up, however, as the attacks continued, with Mayo missing their next three shots. They went 19 minutes without registering a further score.
Galway took the impetus from that point onwards. Having managed just two attacks in the first 13 minutes with not a single score, they suddenly hit three in as many minutes. Daniel Cox picked off a great point to get the ball rolling, Evan Nolan weaved through the defence and tapped over soon after before Tomo Culhane kicked a free from 35 metres to put his side ahead.
The Mayo cause was aided considerably by wing-back Eoin Gilraine on 22 minutes as his long range point bucked a trend of poor shot selection and wayward efforts. It was followed soon after by a free off the ground from Ciaran Mylett on the left hand side and Mayo were briefly in front only to be pegged back by the dead-eyed free taking of Culhane before the break.
The second half started at a blistering pace with the sides going score for score in the first five minutes. There was some high quality football in the process with Ruairi Keane and Ciaran Mylett kicking points from play for Mayo only for Galway to have answers from Cian Hannon, Nathan Grainger and the hugely influential midfielder James McLaughlin.
Mayo sub Conor Reid kept his side within touch but Galway were now dominating kick outs and surging forward. Culhane added a point from play and from a free to ease his side further clear and, with a three-point lead, the final blow came from that penalty as the side that had lost in the opening round to Roscommon completed their impressive turnaround in this competition.
The permutations are not too complicated as Galway should beat winless Leitrim in Tuam based on all current form. If they do, they’ll be in the play-offs, straight into the final if Sligo join them on six points, as the head-to-head favours the Tribesmen. That leaves Sligo, Roscommon and Mayo on four points. Should Roscommon beat Sligo they’ll go to six along with Galway and into the final ahead of the Tribesmen on the head-to-head rule. This outcome would leave Sligo and Mayo tied and Sligo hold the head-to-head advantage there. However, a Sligo win will mean it’s Mayo who go through, as they beat Roscommon in Round 2.
So it’s not looking good, then, although Sligo have some added incentive as a win over Roscommon will give them a home semi-final against Mayo, while a defeat will mean an away semi-final in Hyde Park against Roscommon. Hope springs eternal. Here’s a mind-boggling stat to finish: Mayo’s last win over Galway at senior, U20 or minor was Salthill in 2015.
Galway: D Halleran; J McGrath, R King, L Tevnan; C Hernon (0-1), E Fiorentini, D McNulty; J McLaughlin (0-1), D O’Flaherty; E Nolan (0-2), D Cox (0-1), D Brady; N Grainger (0-2, ’45), T Culhane (1-5, 1-0 pen, 3fs), W Seoighe.
Subs: C Gallagher for Brady; R Burke for O’Flaherty; N Cunningham (1-0) for Grainger.
Mayo: L Jennings; A Morrison, O Tunney, A Cosgrove; E Murphy, R Keane (0-1), E Gilraine (0-1); D Thornton, E Henry; P Heneghan, P Walsh, C Boland; C Mylett (0-6, 5fs), F Irwin (0-2), R Morrin. Subs: S Dempsey for Murphy; C Reid (0-1) for Morrin; R Hughes for Boland; C O’Connell for Heneghan.
Referee: E O’Grady (Leitrim)