Abysmal Galway hit rock bottom
Allianz Football League Div 1
REMOVE the opening and closing 11 minutes from the equation and Mayo outscored dismal Galway by 2-14 to 0-5 at Tuam Stadium yesterday.
It left Galway supporters in silent shock as they trudged from the ground, quietly contemplating when last they had seen such a dispirited performance from the maroon-and-white and, even more relevant, what had caused it.
The grim reality for Galway is that, unless they figure out what has gone so horribly wrong, the spiral into oblivion will gather pace.
They are already isolated at the bottom of the Division 1 table, showing a scoring difference of minus-18 points after three defeats. With games against Kerry, Cork, Armagh and Dublin to come, relegation is a certainty unless they undergo a dramatic transformation over the next few weeks.
From a Galway viewpoint, the most disturbing aspect of yesterday's defeat was the manner in which their resolve melted once Mayo raised the pace and tempo early in the second half.
Mayo led by 1-7 to 0-7 at the interval after playing with a fresh wind, so the game was still there for the taking if Galway were up to the challenge.
This, after all, was Tuam Stadium, Galway's spiritual home and a venue where they constructed many of their most famous wins over Mayo down the years.
Galway had started the first half with an enterprising flourish, scoring three unanswered points in the first 11 minutes, so they must have felt that with the wind behind them after half-time, an equally impressive opening was within their capabilities.
How wrong they were. Mayo kicked three points in the opening five minutes to extend their lead to six.
Eight minutes later, Jason Doherty whipped in his second goal and, as Galway faded further into the background, Mayo pressed on to lead by 2-14 to 0-8 on the hour mark.
Cormac Bane (3) and Joe Bergin (1) cut the deficit with four points on the home run, but it was no more than a gesture of defiance in a battle that had long since been decided.
Mayo manager James Horan was at his diplomatic best afterwards, pointing out that "Galway heads dropped a bit and we kicked on", but he must have been surprised at the extent of the capitulation in the second half.
He was involved in many tough battles with Galway in his playing days but it was all so different yesterday.
Tomas O Flatharta talked of Galway doing well for long periods in the first half but, on the issue of the second-half collapse, he had to acknowledge an unquestioned reality.
"Mayo started winning ball around the middle of the field early in the second half and got three scores. It seems our heads dropped after that. The only people that can do something about it are ourselves," he said.
O Flatharta had begun the corrective work in the 26th minute, making a change in the full-back and full-forward lines, the latter involving the substitution of Danny Cummins.
It was a tough call on the full-forward who had done well enough up to then, using his pace to test a Mayo defence where full-back Alan Feeney improved after Cummins' departure.
Mayo goalkeeper Robert Hennelly made a fine save from Cummins' goal-bound shot in the 14th minute and there were a few other occasions, too, in the first half when Galway might have scored a goal.
However, with their luck and their confidence out at present, the elusive goal never came.
Instead, it was Mayo who struck for a game-changing goal in the 22nd minute when Doherty beat his marker to possession around 45 metres from goal, soloed through a scattered defence and directed the ball neatly to the net.
The Burrishoole man ended his league debut with 2-1 from open play, earning him justified praise from his manager.
"He's a natural finisher and hopefully he can build on that," said Horan.
Galway reacted well to Mayo's first goal and were only a point adrift after 31 minutes. However, crucially, they conceded two points before the interval followed by another three on the re-start. That was followed by a sharp fall to a level of mediocrity which is truly ominous for Galway.
Granted, it might have been altogether different if they had Padraic and Nicky Joyce and Michael Meehan in attack but, even without that productive trio, they should be far more competitive than they were yesterday.
"We have to look at the bigger picture and it has to start with improving ourselves. We have to stick together and keep at it," said O Flatharta.
Still, it looks highly likely that after so long in the top flight, Galway are now in apparent freefall towards Division 2.
And Mayo? Thrashing Galway in Tuam a day after Enda Kenny became Taoiseach-elect made it a weekend to remember for the green-and-red. John O'Mahony, who had managed both sides, was among the crowd yesterday, beaming broadly after successfully retaining his Dail seat.
Sadly for Galway, they retained nothing yesterday but did lose a whole lot of credibility during that second-half cave-in.
"Galway are a lot better than they played today. They'll be a different team in the summer," said Horan, with one cautious eye on a likely Connacht semi-final clash in late June.
Hopefully for Galway football, plus the reputation of the Connacht championship, he is right.
Man of the Match: Jason Doherty (Mayo)
Scorers -- Mayo: J Doherty 2-1, A Dillon 0-5 (4f), A Campbell (2f), K McLoughlin 0-3 each, A Moran, A O'Shea (1f) 0-1 each.
Galway: C Bane 0-5 (2f), S Armstrong 0-4(2f, 1 '45), J Bergin 0-3.
Mayo -- R Hennelly 7; C Barrett 7, A Feeney 7, T Cunniffe 8; R Feeney 7, G Cafferkey 6, J Burke 6; R McGarrity 7, J Kilcullen 6; A Campbell 7, A Dillon 7, K McLoughlin 8; A O'Shea 6, A Moran 7, J Doherty 9. Subs: T Parsons 7 for Kilcullen (47), P Gardiner 7 for Burke (49), J Moran 6 for Campbell (57), L Keegan 6 for Cunniffe (61).
Galway -- P Lally 7; A Burke 6, D Reilly 5, C Forde 5; K Brady 6, F Hanley 6, G O'Donnell 5; P Conroy 5, E Hoare 5; G Sice 5, C Bane 7, J Bergin 7; S Armstrong 7, D Cummins 7, C Kenny 5. Subs: Damien Reilly 5 for David Reilly (26), O Concannon 6 for Cummins (26), D Blake 5 for Conroy (49), D Mullahy 5 for Forde (53), N Coyne 5 for Brady (57).
Ref -- D Fahy (Longford).