“Not if they have Willie Joe” was the lyrical response to this question when sung in the famous Saw Doctors song. The age old rivalry that is the Maroon and White versus the Green and Red never fails to get my excitement levels revved up to their limit.
One of my earliest memories of following Mayo in the early 2000s was a defeat at the hands of our neighbours. As we walked back to the car, I remember a chant being sung at the time by a group of lads my own age “Galway are the best in the West”. It must have been my first taste of defeat because it boiled my blood even at the tender age of 6 or 7 years old and the chant was just the tip of the iceberg. Not only were Galway the best in the west at the time, they were one of the best in Ireland having won All Irelands in both ’98 and ’01.
Skip forward a decade and things have changed so drastically. Mayo have now become the dominant force in Connacht while Galway haven’t beaten our men since 2008 nor won a provincial title. I juggle two jobs – one as a journalist for the Western People, the other as a shop assistant in Galway. Therefore, I have gotten a taste of the build-up to the game in both counties.
In Mayo, it’s business as usual: game two out of six. It wouldn’t matter who the opposition was, the papers would still fill their pages with the pre-match build-up. With it being Galway, however, the coverage is massive in each paper, trying to jam in every last detail possible.
In Galway, though, the mood is different. The papers have, at most, four pages worth of content on the upcoming match. This may seem odd to us folk in Mayo but, working in Galway, I can see why there’s so little. Basically, the focus in the last few years has shifted to hurling more so than football in my opinion.
Where I work, I have good conversations about sport with regular customers. When asked about ‘Saturday’s game’, they would reply back with their predictions on the Ireland match. When specified, they have no hope nor heed about how Galway might do. One customer however, was angered by the fact that we didn’t sell tickets for Saturday evening’s game and was happy to tell this Mayo man that he would love to see Galway hammer us. That’s the sort of passion that I was used to growing up when talking about these two teams.
It would be nice to see Mayo get put through their paces by Galway but that seems highly unlikely considering the inexperienced team they announced. Galway have named five (you could nearly count six, as Declan Kyne only featured for a minute in last year’s championship) debutants for Saturday’s meeting.
Mayo’s team is much stronger. If Stephen Rochford doesn’t make any last minute changes, it gives a good chance for Conor O’ Shea, Evan Regan, Jason Gibbons and the likes to put a marker down and make the manager’s selection choices in the future that little harder.
Francis Farragher said in the Connacht Tribune this week that it would take “a brave man to bet on Galway at 4/1 but only a rich man could make money off Mayo at 2/9”. Most definitely, it will take a brave performance from a Galway team to beat Mayo. Mayo on the other hand, much like the betting man, are rich with talent.