Aidan O'Shea's massive power breaks Galway defences
Mayo 1-15 Galway 2-8
The gap between Mayo and Galway has narrowed but it still remains quite sizeable.
Coming after six, 17 and seven-point defeats by Mayo in 2011, '13, and '14, Galway will be encouraged to have cut the deficit to four in Pearse Stadium yesterday
But when they reflect in detail on an untidy, fractious encounter, they will be confronted by the unquestionable reality that they contributed enormously to making life easier for Mayo than it should have been.
In particular, they will revisit the opening four minutes of the second half, a period which effectively wrecked their prospects of beating their greatest rivals for the first time since 2008.
It was level at half-time but Mayo hit Galway for an unanswered 1-3 quickly on the restart.
Just as he had done in the first half, Aidan O'Shea used his mighty force to win the throw-in and launch an attack which yielded a free for Cillian O'Connor to kick Mayo ahead.
Within a minute, Galway were four points down after a fly-kick by goalkeeper Manus Breathnach cannoned off Finian Hanley and into the net.
It was defensive panic at its most costly and when O'Connor and O'Shea added two more points, Galway found themselves six points adrift (1-11 to 1-5) with the second half barely warmed up.
If Mayo had fallen six points behind, their vast experience might well have provided an escape route, but Galway don't have anything like the same reserves of seasoning to call upon.
Instead, they summoned spirit and determination and were rewarded with a mini-revival which saw them cut the deficit to two points.
The main catalyst for the fightback was a goal by Danny Cummins in the 53rd minute. It topped a fine performance by the Claregalway man, who seriously troubled, among others, Keith Higgins, a feat that not many forwards have achieved in recent years.
The Galway support was in full voice as they sensed that maybe something special was about to unfold, but it was short-lived. Mayo sub Mark Ronaldson and Seamus O'Shea clipped over points to open up a four point lead after 57 minutes.
The remainder of the game yielded a point each for two teams, whose seasons will now take very different directions.
Mayo continue their quest for a fifth successive Connacht title, while Galway head for the treacherous qualifier waters.
Still, they will do with genuine hopes of prolonging the campaign - provided, of course, that they learn from yesterday's experience.
Basically, it was a classic case of Division 1 v Division 2, a situation which always demands that everything goes right for the lesser force.
Chief among those requirements is that the opposition misfires.
And while Mayo were sloppy at times, they always looked like a team that could readjust to a higher pressure game if the occasion demanded.
That's exactly what they did immediately after half-time and again when Galway came back at them with the Cummins goal.
Galway's cause was damaged by the loss of Paul Conroy on a black card in the 50th minute. Indeed, his departure showed up one of the clear differences between the squads.
Mayo sent on Alan Dillon (he was forced off again pretty quickly with a hamstring injury), Mark Ronaldson, Donal Vaughan, Ger Cafferkey and Barry Moran at various stages, players with a vast amount of experience, whereas Galway were relying on much less battle-hardened replacements.
Galway's day got worse near the end when Hanley was sent off on a black card, and since he had earlier picked up yellow, no replacement was allowed.
Lee Keegan finished in the dug-out too, yellow-carded for a second time deep in stoppage-time after a flare-up near the sideline involving several players.
The game had started in similar fashion, with Keegan and Michael Lundy booked in the opening minute. Galway were obviously determined to engage Mayo with as much physicality as possible.
However, they couldn't cope with Aidan O'Shea, who used his enormous power to batter away at their defensive ramparts.
It worked very effectively, drawing several frees, which O'Connor pointed. By the time he was replaced late on, he had pointed eight frees, a reminder to Galway that greater defensive discipline is essential in their rebuilding programme.
Admittedly, they won't face such a giant warhorse as O'Shea every day, but if they are to progress towards being serious contenders over the next few seasons, they will need to learn how to cope with that type of challenge.
Still, Galway can take some positives into the qualifiers. They recovered from a three-point deficit after 19 minutes to draw level in the 22nd minute and did even better when Mayo pulled two points clear just before half-time.
Gary Sice delivered one of the day's more memorable moments when he bounded through the Mayo defence and fired in a spectacular goal in the 35th minute.
It was an uplifting moment for Galway, putting them ahead for the first and only time, before O'Connor pointed a free to leave it level at the interval (1-5 to 0-8).
Galway would have been delighted with their first-half revival, but it's unlikely that Mayo were unduly perturbed, as they would have expected to drive on in the second half of their first Championship outing of the season.
However, they could never have envisaged that the match-defining period would come so quickly. It really was an impressive surge by Mayo, even there was a high degree of luck attached to their goal.
Significantly, Aidan O'Shea was heavily involved in causing the panic in the Galway defence after another of his momentum-filled drives.
Such a disastrous start to the second half was the last thing Galway needed. Still, unlike two years ago when they caved in completely against Mayo, they showed much more spirit.
They put some nice passages of play together too, but didn't have the raw power to match a Mayo squad that has been operating at the top end of the market for so long.
Mayo were functional without being especially impressive yesterday, but then it was their first competitive game since early April. And while they were always expected to beat Galway, it was always likely to be more difficult that their 4/9 odds suggested.
And so in proved on a day when Mayo recorded their fifth successive Championship win over Galway, a feat last achieved in 1906.
Scorers - Mayo: C O'Connor 0-9 (8fs), F Hanley 1-0 (og), A Moran 0-2, J Doherty, A O'Shea, M Ronaldson, S O'Shea 0-1 each. Galway: G Sice 1-3 (0-2fs), D Cummins 1-1, P Conroy 0-3 (3fs), D Comer 0-1.
Mayo - D Clarke 7; T Cunniffe 6, K Higgins 6, K Keane 7; C Barrett 7, L Keegan 7, C Boyle 6; S O'Shea 7, T Parsons 7; D O'Connor 7, A O'Shea 9, K McLoughlin 7; A Moran 7, C O'Connor 7, J Doherty 7. Subs: A Dillon for A Moran (34), M Ronaldson 7 for Dillon (41), D Vaughan 7 for Boyle, 52), G Cafferkey 6 for Keane (56), B Moran for Parsons (66), A Freeman for C O'Connor (69).
Galway - M Breathnach 6; J Duane 6, F Hanley 6, C Sweeney 7; L Silke 6, G O'Donnell 6, S Denvir 6; F O'Curraoin 6, P Conroy 6; G Sice 7, M Lundy 6, T Flynn 6; D Cummins 8, P Sweeney 6, D Comer 6. Subs: P Og O Griofa 6 for Conroy (50, BC), E Hoare for Flynn (62), G Bradshaw for Silke (62), A Varley for P Sweeney (70).
Ref - P Hughes (Armagh)
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