O'Mahony hails great rivalry in Kernan's first taste of western derby
GALWAY v Mayo has always been one of the closest rivalries in football but they have taken it to fascinating levels over the past four years with no fewer than six of their last seven competitive clashes producing one-point wins.
Given that remarkable sequence, it's hardly surprising that bookmakers are divided on the outcome of Sunday's NFL clash in Castlebar. Ladbrokes have installed Mayo as 4/5 favourites with Galway at 5/4 while Paddy Power prices Galway at evens and Mayo at 11/10.
Only one of their last seven games has produced a clear winner when Galway had seven points to spare in the 2007 Connacht quarter-final. Otherwise, it has been incredibly close with the last two Connacht finals returning exactly the same scoreline (2-12 to 1-14), albeit with different winners.
Home advantage doesn't matter very much either as Mayo won championship and league games in Salthill and Tuam last year while in 2008 Galway recorded a double in Castlebar.
"As an outsider looking in, I'd always have thought of Galway v Mayo as a close rivalry but I didn't realise it was quite that tight. Mayo won the last two games so hopefully it's Galway's turn. Any margin will do," said new Galway manager, Joe Kernan.
John O'Mahony, who has managed both counties at alternate periods over 15 seasons, says it didn't matter which side of the fence he looked from, the approach was always the same.
"It really is one of the great rivalries in Irish sport and has been enhanced over the last few years when so many games were won by a point. Home or away, league, championship or challenge, Mayo-Galway rivalry is special. There's a respect there which underpins everything," he said.
Despite the closeness of the clashes between Connacht's 'Big Two', they haven't drawn since November 1997 when a league game finished level in Castlebar.
Mayo set out in pursuit of their first NFL (Div 1) title since 2001, when they beat Galway in the final. And yes, that was a one-point game too with Mayo edging home 0-13 to 0-12. Galway last won the title in 1981. They reached three finals in the last decade but lost to Mayo and Kerry (twice).
Galway v Mayo: As Close As It Gets
2009: Mayo 2-12 Galway 1-14 (Connacht final)
2009: Mayo 1-11 Galway 0-13 (NFL)
2008: Galway 2-12 Mayo 1-14 (Connacht final)
2008: Galway 2-9 Mayo 1-11 (NFL)
2007: Galway 2-10 Mayo 0-9 (Connacht quarter-final)
2007: Mayo 2-10 Galway 1-12 (NFL semi-final)
2006: Mayo 0-12 Galway 1-8 (Connacht final)