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Perfect time for a Tribesmen ambush with Mayo soured by injuries

IN the normal course of events, there are myriad reasons why Mayo 'should' win tomorrow's tasty provincial opener in Salthill and far less logical scope to back up the Galway ambush theory.

Here lies the case for continuing rule of the Green-and-Red ...

p Over the last 21 months, Mayo reached one All-Ireland final, one National League final, another All-Ireland semi-final and another league semi-final. Their failure to take home any national booty shouldn't disguise their consistent ability to mix it with the big boys.

p Over the same period, Galway have found themselves unable to escape Division Two, unable to reach (let alone win) a Connacht final, and unable to arrest the county's truly dire back door record.

In summary, there is nothing in the respective formlines to suggest Connacht's balance of power is suddenly going to tilt back into the Galway camp.

Ever sense a 'but' on the horizon? Stranger things have happened.

True, we are not about to boldly pronounce Mayo as ripe for maroon plunder here, for the self-evident reason that Galway have been such an incorrigibly flaky proposition at senior level.

Not even Alan Mulholland, we suspect, definitely knows which Galway will turn up. Will it be the Galway that laid waste to Roscommon 12 months ago, or the one that ultimately wilted at home to Sligo a few weeks later?

Will it be the Galway that oscillated without any great conviction through spring, losing as often as they won in Division Two?

If so, the distinct likelihood is that they'll lose again, painfully so, with nothing to look forward to bar another short 'back door' detour on the way to nowhere.

But there are some reasons for cautious optimism tomorrow. And they have probably more to do with Mayo than any feelgood factor surrounding Galway's latest All-Ireland U21 coronation.

The favourites are vulnerable primarily because of injury. The effects are most marked in attack, where the absence of Michael Conroy and the inclusion of Alan Dillon and Andy Moran among the subs has the cumulative effect of forcing James Horan to field a very unproven full-forward line.

Enda Varley hasn't always been guaranteed his start under Horan, but now he must carry much of the responsibility. Alan Freeman is recalled after two years where form and/or confidence have waned from such promising early heights. Darren Coen is parachuted in for his debut; after failing to catch fire with the U21s this year, Coen presumably has left an indelible impression in the 'A v B' matches but he is still utterly unproven.

Richie Feeney must be deemed desperately unlucky to miss out, especially with Dillon not fit for half-forward duty from the start.

You may surmise that having Dillon and Moran on the bench could tilt the second-half balance – but the former has played virtually no football all year and the latter hasn't kicked a competitive ball since early last August. How match-fit can they possibly be?

Of course, Mayo's injury-denuded attack is counterbalanced by major question marks over a relatively new-look Galway full-back line, in the injury-enforced absence of Finian Hanley.

Other imponderables abound. Will Aidan O'Shea relocate his midfield mojo for Mayo or will Fiontan ó Curraoin carry his soaring U21 form into the senior arena. If so, and if Michael Meehan can overcome his chronic injury issues to provide the attacking leadership that Galway crave in the post-Pádraic Joyce era, then maybe – just maybe – the ambush is on.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Galway 2/1, Draw 15/2, Mayo 4/7

BET: Galway