Sunday 22 January 2017

Tribesmen's dire summer hits new low

Mayo 1-12 Galway 1-6

Published 27/06/2011 | 05:00

Just when the hard-pressed Galway GAA supporter thought the summer couldn't get any worse after the hurlers' demise in Leinster last week, the footballers came to Castlebar and stole their thunder in a most mundane clash.

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At least now the flak can be distributed equally across the sporting divide in the county.

The pockets of supporters who stuck around McHale Park for the obligatory post-mortem were all left to ponder one thought: when was it as bad as this?

In terms of this fixture, one that is steadily losing its lustre it must be said, Galway haven't posted as low a score since the 1992 replay between the teams.

By that stage they were in the middle of an eight-year famine without a Connacht title. This result ensures that the halfway point to matching that stretch will already have been reached by next season with little sign of a reversal in fortunes.

There was nothing encouraging about this Galway display yesterday; nothing unless Michael Meehan's long-awaited return to competitive action after 55 minutes here comes under that heading.

Misleading

The slight spike in form towards the end of the league campaign that almost lifted them to safety and the All-Ireland U-21 triumph at the end of April were misleading pointers to this day.

They created a false hope, allied with the historical factor attached to the fixture that creates a belief among both teams that they can win regardless of current form.

The fact is that Mayo have now won the last five competitive meetings in league and championship between the counties.

After one-point wins in the 2009 league and championship, Mayo have now kicked on with six-, seven- and eight-point victories over the last 18 months. The gap has widened alarmingly.

To their credit, they put the scare in London behind them and applied themselves impressively here, particularly in the third quarter when they made their winning surge.

Aided by a very strong wind, they quickly ate into Galway's rather false four-point half-time lead, 1-5 to 0-4, and had wiped it out to take a one-point lead by the 49th minute.

Only the alert goalkeeping of Adrian Faherty during that storm of Mayo pressure prevented further embarrassment for Galway.

The coup de grace came in the shape of Alan Freeman's 57th-minute goal, but even without it this game was heading to its inevitable conclusion anyway. Galway's performance once again brings into sharp focus the standard of football in Connacht, which has been ailing for the last three to four years. Is it heading back to the terrible state it found itself in at the beginning of the 1990s?

The defeat will obviously bring Tomas O Flatharta's future into question too, just as a dismal start to the league earlier this year created quite a stir around him.

The redraft of the team clearly didn't work here, with Greg Higgins' lack of mobility exposed by Alan Dillon repeatedly and Finian Hanley and Joe Bergin failing to establish any platform around midfield.

Admittedly, the O'Shea brothers weren't that prominent either, but what dropped to the ground off kick-outs was essentially where this game was decided.

"We gave some silly ball away and if we got more breaking ball around the middle, it might have been different," suggested O Flatharta.

His opposite number, James Horan, produced a cold statistic that underlined how superior Mayo were at sweeping up the crumbs. From 21 kick-outs they won 17 by his count.

For Horan there is the quiet satisfaction that they are heading in the right direction. It will please him too that Mayo had eight different scorers from play.

"I think we do a lot of good things and there are things we have to improve on. But if you put it over the course of the last 10 games, including the league, I'd say the trend is on the way up.

"We kept going, we missed a few frees in the first half and you could feel the crowd getting anxious. We had a few scares, a few yellow cards early on in the full-back line.

"But we just kept going and kept playing. We got stronger and stronger throughout the game so we're delighted with that.

"The London match was a good experience for us in a way. It gave us a kick and it helped us sharpen up."

Perhaps the absence of a competitive game for 11 weeks cost Galway as they failed to string any cohesion together. By O Flatharta's estimate they gave away 1-4 directly from inaccurate passes.

The half-time lead they held was scarcely deserved as Mayo had enjoyed most of the play, with Dillon and the ever industrious Andy Moran picking the locks and opening the doors.

Through the energy of the Feeney brothers, Alan and Richie, Tom Cunniffe and Donal Vaughan, they had tight control behind their lead and it was only a break off Cunniffe that presented Paul Conroy with his goal chance, which he hacked past Robert Hennelly on 34 minutes.

For a long time in the first half Hennelly was Mayo's top scorer with two points from a free and a '45', but the return from placed balls was poor, with Dillon and O'Shea kicking short and wide from good positions, albeit into a strong wind.

Mayo began the second half energetically with Moran and Dillon running the show and it was Moran who set up points for Cillian O'Connor and Freeman before putting in Jason Doherty, who appeared to be taken out of it by Faherty.

Faherty made crucial saves from Freeman and O'Connor during that spell to prevent further leakage, but Moran popped up again on 57 minutes to make the opening for Freeman.

Three further points from Freeman and substitutes Ronan McGarrity and Enda Varley made it safe for the home side.

Galway did gain some momentum with the introduction of Diarmuid Blake and Matthew Clancy, but it was short-lived.

Padraic Joyce struggled to make an impact and looked to have injured himself in the warm-up, though he finished out the game. The support around him was poor.

O Flatharta expressed the hope that the game would make them more "battle-hardened" after such a long spell of inactivity. But it looks a forlorn hope. Too many worn faces suggested they couldn't wait for the season to end.

Scorers -- Mayo: A Freeman 1-2, R Hennelly 0-2 (2f), T Mortimer, K McLoughlin, A Dillon (0-1f), A Moran, C O'Connor, J Doherty, E Varley, R McGarrity 0-1 each. Galway: C Bane 0-4 (3f), P Conroy 1-0, P Joyce, E Concannon 0-1 each.

Mayo -- R Hennelly 6; T Cunniffe 7, A Feeney 7, K Higgins 7; R Feeney 8, D Vaughan 7, T Mortimer 7; S O'Shea 6, A O'Shea 6; K McLoughlin 6, A Dillon 7, A Moran 8; C O'Connor 7, A Freeman 7, J Doherty 5. Subs: R McGarrity for S O'Shea (62), E Varley for O'Connor (64), P Gardiner for McLoughlin (70).

Galway -- A Faherty 8; A Burke 6, C Forde 6, J Duane 6; G O'Donnell 5, G Higgins 4, G Sice 6; J Bergin 5, F Hanley 5; E Concannon 6, M Hehir 4, G Bradshaw 7; P Joyce 6, P Conroy 5, C Bane 6. Subs: D Blake 7 for Hehir (45), M Clancy 6 for Conroy (50), M Meehan 5 for Bane (56), D Cummins for Sice (67).

Ref -- R Hickey (Clare).

Irish Independent

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