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Boyle on guard for huge final test from improving Galway

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Colm Boyle insists Mayo are fully focused on the task in hand against Galway. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Colm Boyle insists Mayo are fully focused on the task in hand against Galway. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Colm Boyle insists Mayo are fully focused on the task in hand against Galway. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

For most of the year Colm Boyle's day job and his football career rarely overlap. But for the Galway-based garda, this week will be very different.

Walking the beat in Clifden, the Mayo defender admits that GAA isn't always at the top of the agenda, but that changes when Connacht's great rivals meet in a provincial final.

"It's predominantly a rugby town but obviously the GAA lads would bring up the football the whole time," Boyle said. "I'm sure now in the next week it will be building up. I'll be keeping the head down."

Mayo haven't lost in Connacht since James Horan took charge and that stranglehold on the province was aided by Galway's decline. On Sunday, they are going for a fourth consecutive crown, something they haven't achieved since 1951 and a feat that hasn't been reached by anyone since Roscommon in 1980.

Last year's meeting between the sides saw Galway ship their heaviest defeat to Mayo since 1907, but Mayo's close run against Roscommon combined with Galway's authoritative performance against Sligo has sparked hopes that Sunday will be a close-run thing.

"Everyone is well aware that Galway have come on leaps and bounds since we played them in Salthill last year," Boyle said. "They have two championship wins under their belt. They went to London and everyone knows going to London these days isn't easy – Mayo especially know that.

"They would have been delighted with the win. Again going to Markievicz Park, getting out of there with a five-point win. They will be coming into Castlebar full of confidence."

If Mayo haven't been as spectacular as last year when they blitzed all before them in Connacht, winning their three games by an average of 15 points, they showed real character to get past Roscommon. Three points down with just 10 minutes to go against a side set up not to concede looked too big an ask.

They found a way to win but Boyle rejects any notion that they are training with a view to peaking in September.

"The danger with that (as) any player or manager will tell you is that you can be caught out," he said. "We definitely wouldn't be thinking like that. We have to bring our 'A' game for July 13, no doubt about it, or we will be in major trouble.

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"It's a Connacht final we want to win. Any day you play in a Connacht final, you want to win whether you have won so many or lost so many championship games."

The last time Mayo won four Connacht titles on the bounce was also the year they won their last All-Ireland. And after two near misses in the last two years, they've made minor alterations to their approach to keep the panel fresh and finally get over the line. But it's the emergence of new players that could be the making of Mayo, according to Boyle.

"Obviously we have done an awful lot of things right last year but you need to change things up a small bit. You need to freshen things up. We have done a few minor changes.

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"I think we are very strong (in the squad). We have a couple of young lads who joined the panel this year, coming out of the minor success last year, like Diarmuid O'Connor, Stephen Coen, lads like that who are new to the panel.

"They have definitely added to our strength in depth. It's great to have and something we are going to need if we are to progress."

Before that, there are local bragging rights to secure. Boyle sees Galway's re-emergence as inevitable given the talent at their disposal.

"It is well documented Galway have had their problems the last number of years, but I think this year they have turned things around.

"It takes time from underage. We see it ourselves in Mayo. It is only really now we are getting players from teams in the mid-2000s. It can take time.

"Growing up as a young lad I have great memories of going to Mayo-Galway Connacht finals, especially in Castlebar and for me it's really one I'm looking forward to.

"Growing up it was a massive, massive thing to go to a Mayo-Galway game and especially a Connacht final, so it's a privilege to play in one," Boyle added.


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