Sunday 11 December 2016

Flying Flynn inspires Galway to bring back memories of 1998

Galway 1-12 Mayo 0-12

John Fallon

Published 20/06/2016 | 02:30

Paul Conroy in action against Tom Parsons Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Paul Conroy in action against Tom Parsons Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Galway fans with good memories and bad thoughts will recall that the last time they ambushed Mayo in Connacht and then met Roscommon in the provincial final, they kept going and went all the way to lift the All-Ireland title.

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Not too many of the Galway supporters present in MacHale Park - maybe 1,500 of them in total in the crowd of 21,784 - will be thinking of an All-Ireland title just yet, but this was a huge win for the Tribesmen and, in direct proportion, an enormous setback for Mayo.

Back in 1998, John O'Mahony blooded youngsters like Padraic Joyce and Michael Donnellan and went on to enjoy their best spell since the 1960s.

Kevin Walsh was one of the seasoned men on that team, and on Saturday threw in five debutants against a Mayo side bidding to become the first to win six consecutive Connacht titles.

Of course, the first thing that will be thrown at Mayo is that they had some cheek to get rid of their joint managers Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes after winning Connacht for the fifth time last year.

It's hard to see Mayo players getting much sympathy from their own people in the next few weeks and, accordingly, an unfavourable qualifier draw could see a short summer of action.

Evan Regan is tackled by Eoghan Kerin Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Evan Regan is tackled by Eoghan Kerin Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Stephen Rochford, the man drafted in to replace the dismissed duo and who, accordingly, needed some time to bed in with them, said that their sights never went past their oldest rivals.

"Maybe the accusation will be thrown at us now that we had our eyes on something else but that certainly wasn't the case. All of our thoughts were on Galway. We felt we prepared very well and I think we did," he said.

Rochford expects a response from his men in the qualifiers - and so too do the 20,000 Green and Red fans who left MacHale Park stunned into silence by the raiding party from across the border.

"Time will tell but there is a lot of heart in that group," added Rochford.

"They are very, very down. Some of the guys won't have experienced an evening like this in Connacht. But that is a test of character and having gotten to know these guys over the last six months, I have no doubt that their shoulders are going to be broad enough to take that on and we will know more as the summer continues," added Rochford.

Mayo slipped into gear before the break to lead by 0-8 to 0-6 at the interval and doubled that lead early in the second half.

Aidan O'Shea in action against Paul Conroy Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Aidan O'Shea in action against Paul Conroy Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

But Galway were full of running and with newcomers such as Declan Kyne, Eamon Brannigan and goalkeeper Bernard Power - Corofin's second choice custodian - all outstanding, and warhorses like Paul Conroy, Gary Sice, Thomas Flynn and Damien Comer also delivering, Kevin Walsh's men had a platform.

The key score came when Flynn intercepted a kickout and soloed through to score after 55 minutes to make it 1-10 to 0-11.

Cushion

They went for the throat after that and took a four-point cushion into the closing stages before securing their first Connacht final place in eight years and their first against Roscommon since the all-conquering 1998 crew.

"There's similarity there (with '98) but I suppose if we won last year, ye'd be saying the same thing," said victorious manager Walsh. "As every year goes by, you have young fellas coming into teams.

"It's important that young fellas are given a chance on form, not what people think outside. When that door closes, that's what's important.

"The guys are there on merit and there's some fellas in the subs that were really unlucky not to be there.

Jason Doherty is tackled by Thomas Flynn Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Jason Doherty is tackled by Thomas Flynn Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"Hopefully the panel will get a little bit stronger but the belief has to come back and that should be a help, albeit there's nothing won related to trophies, but what is won is a small bit of pride back."

Scorers - Galway: G Sice 0-4 (3f); T Flynn 1-0; E Brannigan 0-3; P Conroy 0-2; S Walsh, J Heaney & D Cummins 0-1 each. Mayo: C O'Connor 0-6 (5f, 1 '45); C Boyle, T Parsons, L Keegan, S Coen, J Doherty & E Regan (f) 0-1 each.

Mayo: R Hennelly 6; C Boyle 7, K Keane 6, B Harrison 6; S Coen 6, L Keegan 6, P Durcan 5; A O'Shea 5, J Gibbons 5; K McLoughlin 6, C O'Connor 6, T Parsons 6; E Regan 6, J Doherty 6, K Higgins 6. Subs: S O'Shea 6 for Gibbons (21), A Moran 5 for Regan (64), D Vaughan 5 for Keane (59), D O'Connor 5 for Harrison (59), A Freeman 5 for Parsons (69).

Galway: B Power 7; D Kyne 8, E Kerin 7, D Wynne 7; G O'Donnell 6, L Silke 6, G Bradshaw 6; P Conroy 8, T Flynn 8; G Sice 7, S Walsh 7, J Heaney; E Brannigan 8, D Comer 7, D Cummins 7. Subs: A Varley 6 for Walsh (66), P Sweeney 6 for Cummins (66), S Denvir 5 for Heaney (69), E Tierney 5 for Flynn (bc 71).

REF - C Lane (Cork)

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