Tribal warfare

I was in the good seats at the back of the stand in MacHale Park last Saturday night. I had agreed to meet Willie Joe of this parish, Rob Murphy and the rest of the podcast crew to see how the magic happens on match day! I gained quite the insight into the work involved in bringing a podcast together that we are fortunate enough to listen to each week.

Upon Maurice Deegan’s (early-ish!) much welcomed final whistle, rather than making my usual dash to the car, I hung around and listened in on the post-match podcast. To kill time, I sent my young lad off with the cousin to scour the bowels of the stadium for selfies and signatures. He wasn’t left disappointed and he returned with photos and memories to cherish. That should kill the prospect of him supporting the Dubs for another few years at least!

On looking through the photos with match winner McLoughlin, his favourite player Andy Moran, our injured captain Diarmuid, our returning saviour Cillian, the colossus that is Aidan O’Shea with his right foot in a protective boot (please God let it be precautionary!), plus many others, I got an enormous sense of pride in knowing that I am from Mayo, my son is a Mayo supporter and we all, as Mayo supporters, have an absolutely fantastic group of men representing our county.

Those lads that have donned the Green and Red over the last decade are a credit to themselves. They give their all on the pitch and they give their time to young kids off the pitch as well. I for one am exceptionally proud of this team. Whilst we might not have yet reached the Promised Land in terms of All-Ireland glory, we have enjoyed a savage number of good days because of them. Let’s hope we’ve a few more journeys this year.

Okay, nostalgia narrative over for today I promise – time to talk football. As regards on the pitch activities, we managed to return the apples to their orchard but only just. Armagh can count themselves slightly unfortunate to lose as it was a game Kieran McGeeney will feel they very much left behind.

Our victory had all the hallmarks of a typical Mayo performance. Our concession of a seemingly obligatory early goal for the third consecutive game is a worry. Our reaction to that setback was pleasing though. We wrestled back control of the game in the second and third quarters and McLoughlin’s solo run and finish to the back of the Albany end net put us in the perfect position to see out the game without pain. All that was required was a small bit of poise. I should be so lucky!

The last fifteen minutes of the game was sheer kamikaze football. Mayo once again showed their innate inability to control a game, an inability to say we are the better team here – we are the bigger fish. This is not your level yet Armagh. Instead we gave Armagh every opportunity to come back into a game and open the door which we should have hammered and bolted shut a long time ago. 

In fairness to David Clarke, he persisted when he could with the short kick outs to retain possession. However, time and time again, Mayo players coughed up possession through a combination of lazy passing, carrying the ball into contact and waiting for the ball to come rather than attacking the play. Be it tiredness or fear, too many players seemed to go missing in the final moments.

Still a win is a win, and with the apples suitably returned to their orchard, it was Mayo that found themselves through to the Round 4 qualifier draw. I delayed my return to Dublin until Monday evening so was still in Mayo for the draw on Monday morning. This time it was the word “Cavan” on repeat from my lips listening to Radio One. No such luck again! Last out of the drum – Galway v Mayo. I should have known. This is going to be a long week!  

Photo:  GAA

This particular rivalry immediately sparks good memories for me. One of my earliest memories is the 1992 Connacht quarter-final between Galway and Mayo in Tuam Stadium. I remember going with my Dad while my elder brother stayed at home to watch Euro ’92 on the TV. That kind of early loyalty should be remembered if ever there’s only one All-Ireland ticket up for grabs in the house!

To this day, I can still recall my Dad parking outside a large red-bricked house on the Claremorris side of Tuam and him having to carry me on his shoulders most of the distance. I was a pain in the arse even then! The game ended a draw and Mayo would subsequently win the replay in Castlebar on their way to the Connacht title. I was six years of age and was now hooked on Mayo football. And our neighbours to the south would prove to become one of the long standing protagonists in this particular love affair.  

Mayo and Galway would arguably play out the greatest of their rivalries between the years of 1996 and 1999. Mayo won three of the four Connacht titles on offer in this period defeating Galway along the way in 1996, 1997 and 1999.  The other year you say? 1998? Well, Galway would beat Mayo in a thriller in Castlebar in the first round of the championship and would ultimately win some minor honour later that year (I can’t recall its name!) and bring it across the Shannon for the first time in thirty-two years.

For me this mini-era was the height of the rivalry as these were two evenly matched teams playing football of a high quality going on to compete in All-Ireland semi-finals and finals on a regular basis. On one side you had the likes of Mortimer, Cahill, Connelly, Nallen, Horan, Heaney, McDonald to name but a few. For the Tribesmen, you had Meehan, De Paor, Walsh, Donnellan, Fallon, Joyce, Savage. One sensed there was a healthy respect and admiration between the players. I’m not so sure the same can be said now of both current squads.

In James Horan’s first reign between 2011 and 2014, Mayo beat Galway in all three championship games in which they faced each other. Mayo would repeat the trick under Holmes and Connelly too in 2015. The average winning margin of championship victory over Galway was 9 points over a five-year period. This was utter Mayo dominance over a sustained period. 

The low point for Galway football in this rivalry was in 2013 when Mayo embarrassed Galway on a scoreline of 4-16 to 0-11 in Pearse Stadium. Galway had Niall Coleman and Gareth Bradshaw sent off elucidating an indiscipline and lack of character which permeated the Galway team during this period. Alan Mulholland did little to inspire on the sideline either and in the autumn of 2014, having dispensed with Mulholland, the Galway County Board turned to former Sligo manager and Galway footballing legend Kevin Walsh.

Walsh seemed determined to shed Galway of their “nice footballer” image and adopt a more hardened approach. He seemed to have one goal in mind for Galway, and to paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson, that was “to knock Mayo off their f*cking perch”. It saddens me to say, but Walsh succeeded in his primary aim.

Galway football right now may not be pretty. It is of the pragmatic rather than the aesthetic variety. It no longer evokes memories of Joyce, Fallon, Donnellan or Meehan. It may even cause those with longer memories to pine for the days of Purcell and Stockwell. Make no bones about it though, Kevin Walsh doesn’t give a damn about those notions. Walsh would argue that he is in a results-driven business and when it comes to his record against Mayo, he cannot be challenged.

In Walsh’s first year in charge in 2015, he suffered an honourable four-point defeat to Mayo in the Connacht semi-final. However, since 2016, he has yet to witness defeat to Mayo in league or championship, with Galway have beaten Mayo five times in competitive matches over this period. Whilst Mayo went about their victories between 2011 and 2015 in a swashbuckling and offensive manner, Galway have adopted a more defensive and functional approach. After all, needs must from a Galway perspective.

Since 2016, quite inconceivably, Mayo have failed to score more than 14 points against Galway in league or championship. The average scoring from Mayo’s attacking endeavours against the Maroon and White in the last four years is a meagre 12 points. In the 49 championship games played in 2019 to date, 14 points would have been a sufficient tally for victory on just 3 occasions. In other words, 14 points will not bring championship victory in 2019 94% of the time. Food for thought for James Horan I would have thought and how he approaches the game in Limerick on Saturday evening.

Mayo’s average scoring rate in league and championship this year is 17 points. In comparison, Galway’s average scoring rate is 14 points. Mayo have the skill, ball-winning ability and firepower to beat Galway on Saturday evening. However, above all what they need is (a) be fully ready for a battle and (b) to adopt a patient approach in their attacking play.

Now, these two traits may seem mutually exclusive but they are not. A patient approach is needed with possession in the same way as Roscommon evidenced in the second half of the Connacht final. If the shot is not on, Mayo must recycle the ball, pick and probe and take their opportunity at the right time. It is not an evening for panic. We have shooters in the likes of Durcan, McLoughlin, Coen, O’Connor and Moran. Patience is after all a virtue.

Mayo also need to be at the pitch of the game from Joe McQuillan’s very first whistle. After all this is a Connacht rivalry, regardless of what province the game is being played in. What Mayo require is a controlled aggression; what we cannot afford however is idiotic indiscipline. Both Keith Higgins and Diarmuid O’Connor saw the line in 2017 and 2018 respectively for petulant acts of retaliation These Galway lads are cuter than we think. It’s surely time for Mayo players to have wised up to these actions. Even in the league game in Castlebar this year, we had the game in our grasp only to concede needless and silly frees against the wind. Calm heads are needed. If we can keep fifteen players on the pitch at the final whistle, I am confident of victory.

And so we march on to Limerick. We venture back to the scene of that classic All-Ireland semi-final replay against Kerry in 2014. It’s a long way to travel for Mayo fans but these lads and this team are worth it. The Gaelic Grounds felt more like the Colosseum on that day in 2014 – an amphitheatre of nerves, passion and tension if ever there was one. This proved to be the final act of Horan’s first coming. Horan will not be thinking of anything other than the game in front of him though. There is a place in the Super 8s within sight. There is a battle with the old enemy to be fought – a sort of tribal warfare. 

“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies”. (Napoleon Bonaparte)

Time to control the chaos lads!

46 thoughts on “Tribal warfare

  1. What an article, Willie Joe. Fair dues to you.

    Now wouldn’t they love to be the ones to bring this greatest Mayo team ever down.
    No Sam, I admit, but what superhuman performances over so many years.
    So, no surrender. In spite of our injuries, we will not concede.
    We are not done yet.
    Up Mayo.

  2. Getting nervous about this one. I don’t believe any of this stuff about Galway being short players and yadda yadda. They’ll have a fairly strong squad the yesterday.
    I just don’t know where our scores are going to come from when Galway shut up shop, as I’m assuming they will. We just don’t know how to deal with their system.

  3. Now that is what I call an excellent read. Though this Mayo team of the last 8 or 9 years is the best I have seen, the games v Galway in Connacht Championship from 1996 to 1999 were all very good games. Incredibly we won 3 of them, 2 in Fortress Tuam but the year we lost 1998, they went on to win Sam.

  4. Good analysis. I voted for Mayo but in truth no idea how it will go. 2 Galway GAA heads I know here in Galway think Mayo will win. Their fans mightn’t even be all that excited about coming due to their management’s negative style. One of them despite probably going hopes they’ll lose so Walsh walks. Doesn’t mean Galway will play badly, they should be fresh and players by their very nature are competitive. They’re capable of carrying out their managers instructions well to win and they also may be capable of winning despite their management though abandoning even a bad plan is better than no plan. I think the bookies may have it right.. us marginal favourites but very little in it. The blanket wasn’t as much a factor last 2 years as the sendings off. In 17 we’d worked out how to deal with them when Zippy red changed the game. If ye recall they were hanging on for dear life and their then rookie Goalie nearly committed hari Kiri a few times. Also they had a last gasp goal save from a defender.
    Last year 2nd half we couldn’t be overly attack minded playing with 14. We were efficient enough but not enough possession & just couldn’t claw them back.

  5. I have a feeling in me belly that if Galway lose and Walsh has to go then Rochford would be travelling south of an evening and not north.
    A case of history repeating itself.

  6. Good read alright. 16 points will win it. Frees again are crucial and Coens shooting boots. Galway have goalie issues so that may swing things in our favour.
    I expect a nailbiter but we have two hard games under our belts and that will be the difference.
    Mayo by 2.

  7. For all our talk of an injury crisis, its quite possible we could have our strongest squad of the year for this game on Saturday

    Mayo to win, im weirdly very confident of it, Galway have come to the end of the road with Walsh and need a fresh start

  8. I wouldn’t call it the strongest squad of the year. Keegan is a massive loss. But it’s still very strong. I have a feeling we’ll win. Make the super 8s. We would have no fear of travelling to Tralee the following week either. We seen to have Kerry’s number over the last few games. Anyway one game at a time. An intense battle. A good few cards shown and Mayo to have 4 points to spare in the end.

  9. @Joet1480, your spot on there imo. I posted the exact same on this blog the minute Stephen was dispensed with last year. Makes perfect sense for a man living in the South of Mayo.

    Anyways, we’ll cross that bridge if it comes to pass. Can’t for the life of me predict a winner in this game, start of the week I had myself convinced Galway would beat us due to our injuries. If we can somehow grab the first goal for a change, it might force them to attack us more and leave space for Coen and co to operate. As Billy Joe says, patience is key! Starve Galway of possession, and no high percentage outside of the boot efforts from 50 yards!! Work the ball waiting for an opening. Finally, as obvious an all as it is, discipline is key!!! Aido will be in for dogs abuse, so cool heads required. Think we’ll have to be 3-4 points up heading into injury time to win this.

  10. Right, can everyone please park this Rochford-to-Galway nonsense for now? There’s a game to be focused on so no need for people to be conjuring up all kinds of scare stories that may never come to pass. Of far more relevance is the fact that whichever of us wins tomorrow evening will be facing Rochy soon enough in the Super 8s.

  11. As its a friday and the weather is great in Dublin im going to indulge myself when my mood is good and also predict the next few weeks, after Mayo have beaten Galway by 4 tomorrow 🙂

    Onto super 8’s i think group A will be topped by the dubs (obviously!), with Tyrone coming in as runner up.
    As for group B, Its possible any team could take points off the other but i expect us to shock Kerry away in the first game but Donegal to top the group, i really think we have kerrys number in terms of phsyicality and that defence was atrocious against Cork. Couldnt believe how bad they were at the back. I expect everyone to hockey Meath (in fact wouldnt be surprised if Clare take meath)

    Semi finals then…
    Donegal v Tyrone
    Dublin v Mayo

    Dubs to squeeze out Mayo in another classic by 2-3 points

    Donegal to beat the dubs in the final by a point :-0

    Please dont come at me for looking past the weekend, allow me this indulgence of a Friday :-0

  12. A question, if extra time is around a 1 in 6 shot is this worth planning for?
    In my experience of watching teams in extra time if one team has three to four of the better footballers fresh in extra time they have a huge impact and help one team pull clear. It is also very hard to make back a deficit in extra time.

  13. @yew_tree, in the region of 15,000 sold, this includes season tickets. North stand is not sold out as of yet and the terraces look like they won’t be needed. Reckon that the attendance will be no more than 19-20,000. Could be wrong.

  14. Was just thinking there lads, imagine if it went to penalties. Not beyond the realms of possibility that both teams level AET.

    The drama would be unbearable, i dont think i could watch

  15. What the na phiarsaigh car park like. Is it a nightmare to get out of after. Does anyone know if theres clamping in operation in jetland shopping centre. Wont get down as early as I’d like so my usual spot will most likely be gone.

  16. Great piece Tom, well done. Brings back similar memories to me too.
    Despite our injuries we are battle hardened and I think we will find a way to win, just. This will be a nail-biter though and there is no way that both teams will finish with 15 on the field.
    This is a game for the hard dogs, lads who can give a belt but more importantly take a belt, as Galway will try every trick in the book to reduce us to 14. It’s up to us to be wide to that.
    Pay no heed the any team named today as until the ball is thrown up by Dublin Joe, we won’t have any idea.
    Hon Mayo

  17. It’s unreserved seating and there are only 20,000 seats in total. If there is going to be over 19k there they’ll have to open a terrace. Otherwise people will be looking around for ages to find a seat!

  18. Key for me in this one is keeping 15 on the pitch at all times.
    last 3 Championship matches against them;

    2016 Mayo 0-12 Galway 1-12 – Stupid goal conceded – bad kickout by Robbie
    2017 Mayo 1-11 Galway 0-15 – Keith sent off
    2018 Mayo 0-12 Galway 1-12 – Diarmuid sent off, Tom injured

    looks like 16 points would beat them 🙂

  19. @wayoutwest…where do you see this info? Also its unreserved seating and general admission.I see tickets.ie and Gaa.ie are advising people they are not selling any more tickets but supervalu and centra still have them

  20. And as we ready for the battle

    We know nothing of this thing
    Others call fear.

    We charge
    United
    Under that mighty Mayo flag

    We know no other way.

    And when the final blow
    The battles ending horn is sounded

    We’ll carry proud, some injured soldiers from the field.

    We will return
    United
    Prouder
    Than when we got there
    Knowing
    That under that Mayo flag
    We will never
    Ever
    Be defeated.

    For we know nothing of this thing
    Others call fear.

  21. @Dave johnston
    The match is on in Killarney and I can assure you the publicans of Killarney are praying for a Mayo win as much as any Mayo man.

  22. Great stuff Tom and let’s hope the galway net is rattled tomorrow evening.
    A few times.

    And yesterday from the Swahili.

    I’ll believe what I hear from the Galway camp after the game.

    We will do our damndest tomorrow and who can tell the outcome now ? What we do know is that we will have heroes coming home with us.

    Heroes going to and heroes coming from.

    What more could anyone ask for ?

  23. Just to remind everyone who are not in a position to attend the minor final in Tuam this evening – TG4 are showing it live on the TG4 player

  24. Feck it only on the player. Im in rural Galway for the holidays and there aint no tinternet or much mobile reception here.

    Im I correct to say last few GvM matches have been played in poor wet and windy conditions. I understand its promised fine tomorrow. Last three matches 12-13 scores maybe weather affected?

  25. Heard from a contact with knowledge of these things. The reason why Tickets.ie are not selling tickets now is that they post their orders out and once the postal deadline comes around they don’t sell any more as it would be too late to post them. Tickets for North Stand still available from Centra and Super Valu. They’ll also be selling them on the day in vans outside.

  26. Supermac if your gonna give us that at least have a happy ending!!! Jeez from my angle there’s some comfort in Dublin winning it. At least then we won’t have that nagging feeling of ‘it cudda or shudda been us’!!

    We should always believe we can win it in any given year. If we don’t then something is wrong with Mayo football.

  27. As a neutral with a vested interest I am looking forward to this one and if I can square away a few things I will try to make it to limerick as I think the ground will smell of cordite once McQuillan lofts the ball up tomorrow. I see plenty of cards being issued in this one and in all probability one or two players will walk for secondary infractions. Horan will absolutely impress on his team to bring controlled aggression to this one. Galway have had your number for far too long now and they will see this game as the defining moment in the recent history of the intense local rivalry. Kerrin and a few more like him will use this very issue to try and wind up and distract mayo and if they start to react “uncle Jo” will issue a hefty sanction to maintain order.

    It’s very difficult to bring measure to the advantages and possible weaknesses in both teams, Mayo have lost more or less their team spine with their 6,several 9’s and a good11 all out with serious injury. I’m hearing mixed reports about Comers fitness situation but regardless he has no real game time under his belt so his relevance is significantly lessened. For me this game suits Mayo more than Galway as those players need no reminding of their recent jousts with Galway. Mayo have an absolute fanatical desire to to set the record straight as I believe that in their minds they simply haven’t considered the opinion that Galway are better than them, they could and many would say should have won all the recent championship games, missed chances coupled with silly sending offs of hugely influential players at critical times.

    All of the disappointment, the regret, the onfield physical and verbal exchanges that went on between these old rivals is now in the mix and who ever brings more control onto that field tomorrow evening will probably be watching videos and stats on the Kerry players over the coming days. Everyone here is talking about it as if Kerry were playing tomorrow evening such is the anticipation for the game. The scribe that penned the above piece mentioned Napoleons quote regarding controlling chaos in battle and it is indeed very relevant in this game as this one will be won by the team with the least fear and the greatest heart, I think Galway fear this game (not the actual game itself but the knock on effect it will have on them as a team and their reputation) and I think the Mayo team above all else have immense heart, for me it’s going to be Mayo but petulance could have the last word in this one.

    I can almost see the Gaelic grounds staff putting on Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Two Tribes” straight after the National anthem wahoooo ! Wouldn’t that just set the tone !, on a separate note for the more confident ones among ye I’d be arranging accommodation ASAP as Kerry is a popular destination at this time of the year and spare beds are as scarce as hens teeth.

    Good luck for tomorrow but that’s where my best wishes end, safe traveling to all

  28. Few points on this one:

    Great read Tom. Thoroughly enjoyed it. As if the blood needed to be pumping any more …

    Can’t understand why tickets.ie don’t provide a ‘print at home’ option for these games … but there you have it.

    I would not be one bit surprised to see Comer make a much bigger impact tomorrow than anyone is predicting. He might have only 20 minutes of club football under his belt, but he will be gunning for Mayo. If he gets game time and gets a sniff of the ball he will punish us. Take Galway’s injury talk all week with a pinch of salt, along with our own.

    Goals win games. We need goals. We do not need to be conceding goals. Early goals or late goals. Any kind of goals.

    Tomorrow is a day for green and red (not navy or pink or bright blue or black or neon yellow). Put on your green and red, your hats, scarves, headbands, wristbands, bring your flags and make yourselves seen and heard. If things look like they aren’t going well, stand up and shout. Eat your carbs this evening and get a good breakfast into ye in the morning, ye will need it all.

    I have a funny feeling this one might go to the wire and the dreaded extra time will be needed. But I also believe we will win.

    Safe travels to all heading south. Maigh Eo Abú!

  29. Naturally enough I am hoping for a Galway win tomorrow. Least we forget, although it seems an age ago, Mayo are league champions – and a wonderful team/panel. You can be sure it is going to be a hell of a battle and, tempers of both players/supporters will be tested.

    By all means roar on your team – with pride and passion. But above all, I’d like people to always remember that they are representing Connaught and, regardless of what anyone says, there is, and has always been, a mutual respect between the two counties.

    That in itself, is a tradition worth maintaining and fighting for. Should Galway be beaten tomorrow, I’ll have no problem supporting Mayo in Killarney and of course Ros – just as all previous generations have…

    Enjoy the game and sure, we might meet in the Ardhú before/after…

  30. Rest assured that tomorrow will see our best forward line start this year that being;

    Mc Donagh McLoughlin Doherty
    Carr Coen Oconnor

    And I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if Keegan starts; if not its O’Donaghue in the cornor and Higgins to move to the HB position or a straight switch with McCormack.

    Its two from Vaughan SO’Shea and A.O’Shea at MF

    So feeling good with personnel, its all about attitude, controlled aggression and exposing Galway’s FB line with fast inside ball on the counter attack. In defence choke Galway’s forwards by getting bodies back.

    Also FFS don’t concede early goals like we have done in the Roscommon, Down & Armagh matches and give Galway something to play and build on.

    BRING IT ON…………………………………

  31. Cop on Anne Marie. My young fella got the blue kit this year for bday and the youngest has herself the faded black red one for Xmas the year before. Are you telling us we should fork out another 70 quid for the home shirt for them and they cant wear their favoy jersey?.
    People can wear whatever feels comfortable, doesn’t make a blind bit of difference

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