Friday 23 August 2019

Defiant Mayo to exploit Tribesmen's post-Connacht final trauma

Fionn McDonagh scores a point for Mayo despite being crowded out against Armagh. Expect Mayo to show their usual defiance tonight despite their injury proble. Photo: Sportsfile
Fionn McDonagh scores a point for Mayo despite being crowded out against Armagh. Expect Mayo to show their usual defiance tonight despite their injury proble. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Liam Kearns made an interesting point in Thursday's Irish Independent about the challenges facing beaten provincial finalists in Round 4 qualifiers, pointing out that the manner of the defeat is usually significant.

He has vast experience in that area, having led Limerick (twice), Laois and Tipperary into Round 4 games after losing provincial finals. Tipperary (2016) were the only winners, although in fairness to Limerick in 2003 and 2004, they were caught in six-day turnarounds, which all but wrecked their chances.

Tipperary had three weeks to recover from the 2016 defeat by Kerry, a period which Kearns used wisely to reprogramme the squad. They went on to beat Derry, trimmed Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final before losing to Mayo in the semi-final.

"Three weeks made all the difference and it's a big break for Galway now. They had a week to feel sorry for themselves and two weeks to build up again. They've got to get the bad experience against Roscommon out of their system," said Kearns.

It really is a top priority after a catastrophic power failure in the second half. It was a dreadful effort, yielding only one point in normal time and a second in the added minutes.

Earlier they had gone from the 11th to the 28th minutes without scoring, which means that they managed just one point in 52 minutes. They scored 0-5 in the opening 11 minutes and the same in the closing seven minutes of the first half, underlining the inexplicable disparities in the overall performance.

That's why there's such uncertainty surrounding them now. Which team will turn up? The slick-moving outfit of their better periods against Roscommon or the shapeless group that looked distinctly Division 4 material during the down times?

Mayo have seen off teams from Divisions 3 and 2 in their last two games, scoring a total of 3-31. Earlier, they hit 0-17 against Roscommon, leaving them with an average of 1-16 in three games, which is impressive.

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Concession However, their average concession was 1-14, which is well above the danger level for teams hoping to take their case into the latter stages of the championship.

The three most recent Galway-Mayo championship games, all of which the Tribesmen won, were far removed those high-scoring shoot-outs, which is again likely to be the case this evening.

Remarkably, Galway scored exactly the same amount (1-12, 0-15, 1-12) in all three games, while Mayo twice conceded 0-12 and 1-11 in the other game. Their league game was low-scoring too, Galway winning 1-11 to 0-12.

Given the nature of their successes against Mayo, it's likely that Galway will set up quite defensively again. Apart from it helping them to chisel out four wins, they will also be conscious of Mayo's recent high yields, so expect lots of maroon pouring into defensive channels.

Both sides face a big psychological test, the outcome of which could decide who joins Kerry, Donegal and either Meath or Clare in Group 1 of the 'Super 8s'. For Mayo, it hinges on whether they can escape the tight grip Galway have imposed on them in recent years.

Nobody foresaw such a dramatic turn in 2015 when Mayo beat Galway for a fifth successive time in the Connacht Championship, but all changed a year later.

For Galway, it's all about zapping the awful Connacht final memory, a difficult process, even if they have had three weeks to work on the relaunch.

Nearly all of the players would have had an uncomfortable time watching re-runs of the game and explaining individually why there wasn't more to their performance.

That should provoke a reaction. It still might not be enough to wear down Mayo who, despite their injury mishaps, have remained doggedly defiant, nudging their way ever closer to the last eight.

On the law of averages, they are due a win over Galway, and when better to deliver it than in the first championship clash between the counties outside Connacht?

Verdict: Mayo

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