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Mayo scatter the Tribes

DID anyone mention ambush? More like annihilation of the record-shredding variety.

Mayo travelled to Pearse Stadium happy to embrace their tag of favouritism but with sceptics from outside James Horan's camp wondering if, with their injury-denuded attack, they could be vulnerable to that time-honoured early-summer ambush.

Instead, a myriad of different 'A' words sprung to mind after the visitors ransacked Galway in their own Pearse Stadium back yard.

Exultant Mayo fans would have favoured the 'awesome' adjective to describe the ferocity of their first-half pressing game, forcing countless turnovers that led to goals and points that visibly sapped the morale from sagging Galway hearts and limbs.

Home supporters won't be so charitable in their assessment. Abject, awful, anaemic: take your pick.

 

ABYSS

And then, after a first half that ended with them staring into a 12-point abyss (3-9 to 0-6) it conspired to get even worse for the woebegone underdogs. Having spent much of that opening period losing possession in ever-more perilous positions, they spent the third quarter losing their rag.

Garreth Bradshaw, captain for the day in the injury-enforced absence of Finian Hanley, showed all the wrong type of leadership qualities by getting embroiled with Cathal Carolan just as two others (Gary Sice and Kevin McLoughlin) were wrestling on the ground.

Bradshaw was identified as culprit-in-chief and received a straight red card for striking Carolan whereas McLoughlin – a breaking ball inspiration during Mayo's first-half pomp – received a yellow.

Even if Galway (improbably) landed the next three points, this was never going to be a match where 14 men launched an improbable comeback from beyond the grave.

Even more so after it became 13 men against 15, following Niall Coleman's 52nd-minute red for another strike – this time on Alan Dillon – right in front of referee Marty Duffy.

From there it was an anti-climactic meander. Even the sight of Andy Moran taking off his tracksuit elicited a bigger cheer than anything reserved for Galway's sporadic scoring efforts.

Moran duly entered the fray just beyond the hour, making his first competitive appearance since tearing his cruciate ligament against Down in last season's All-Ireland quarter-final.

Last year's stricken captain then became Mayo's fourth goalscorer on 70 minutes – the fact that he found the net with his weaker left peg neatly summed up both Mayo's and Galway's day.

Thus, it finished in 4-16 to 0-11 capitulation for Galway. Mayo 'Stattos' could be seen trawling through the match programme afterwards, gleaning portentous nuggets of information.

The 17-point chasm equalled Mayo's record margin of victory for this fixture, dating all the way back to their 3-9 to 0-1 victory in 1907. Yesterday eclipsed their 16-point win over Galway in 1951, which was the last time they scored four goals in SFC combat against the Tribesmen.

That, of course, was the last year Mayo lifted Sam Maguire – and the last time they have won more than two Connacht titles back-to-back. Then, they completed a provincial four-timer; now they're going for three-in-a-row, with Roscommon at MacHale Park up next on June 16.

It's hard to conceive how Roscommon, a mid-table Division Three outfit, can live with Mayo on this form, especially given how Galway were so physically and tactically off the pace.

 

AGGRESSION

In many respects, that first half was like men against boys. But it wasn't simply a case of Mayo heft; it was their aggression in the tackle, even high up the pitch. In this, Mayo watchers spied signs of Donie Buckley's influence.

And yet it was impossible to ignore the opposition's complicity in their own downfall: a cynic might even argue that Mayo were at their most dangerous when the Galway full-back line had the ball. We jest, only slightly.

Once Carolan barged past Johnny Duane for Mayo's opening goal, to establish a five-point lead after 15 minutes, Galway fans who have watched their team topple down the pecking order must have feared the worst.

And then it got even worse with two calamitous goal concessions in the lead-up to half-time: Thomas Flynn handpassed carelessly straight to Carolan in the 31st minute; he fed Cillian O'Connor who in turn teed up Enda Varley for a right-footed finish.

Three minutes later, another Galway turnover in the tackle resulted in McLoughlin picking out O'Connor in glorious isolation inside, and 'keeper Manus Breathnach was left stranded by O'Connor's selfless lay-off to the barnstorming Donal Vaughan.

Late on three goals became four, meaning Mayo had doubled their meagre league haul of two in eight games ... all in the space of 70 crazy minutes.


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