Monday 14 October 2019

Eoin Liston: Hapless Galway look like an easy touch in qualifiers

I wrote on Saturday that I thought Galway-Mayo was no foregone conclusion. I was well off the mark. It was annihilation from start to finish, and credit should go to Mayo.

They were the team with everything to lose; going to the home ground of their oldest rivals as roaring-hot favourites, playing a Galway side that appeared to put all their focus into this one match.

But James Horan has clearly got his squad where he wants them. His team were organised, disciplined and there wasn't the slightest inkling of complacency. They had the look of a mature group that were in Pearse Stadium to do a job, and they executed it ruthlessly.

These teams are light years apart in their developmental cycles. Galway are only starting out in that regard after a number of barren years. You could see that the physicality required wasn't there and they were naive in their approach. There was no evidence of a solid defensive strategy and they paid a heavy price.

To play a short game with light bodies against a team as physically strong as Mayo was criminal. It was never going to work.

One would have to say, their basic skills under pressure were poor. Far too much ball was turned over. There was no composure with the ball in hand or defensively. Any time Mayo ran at them, the only answer they seemed to have was to foul.

IMPRESSIVE

For the entire 70 minutes, Mayo's forwards worked themselves into the ground. They tackled everything that moved inside the Galway half of the field. At the back, Keith Higgins gave his usual faultless display while Donal Vaughan was impressive, bursting forward at every opportunity.

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The third Mayo goal was just an appalling one to conceded. Why was Cillian O'Connor left isolated with no defender within 20 metres of him? How was Vaughan able to run unimpeded from his own defence to take the ball off O'Connor and practically walk it over the line?

I did feel that the experience of Aidan and Seamus O'Shea would be a crucial factor, and they duly obliged by completely dominating the middle third. It was like taking candy from a baby, and Galway couldn't come to grips with it.

It was a shame to see a top-class forward like Michael Meehan growing so frustrated that he had to go wandering around the field in an attempt to play himself into the game, such was the lack of service.

Shane Walsh did impress me when he came on, while Meehan and Paul Conroy did their upmost, but such efforts were few and far between. The loss of Finian Hanley was always going to be a blow, but it is now clear just how big a player he is for them. He would have brought experience and leadership qualities that were so gallingly lacking.

Going down to 13 men was hardly ideal, but at that stage the game was over. Such was the gulf between the teams, Galway could have had two extra men and it wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference.

I must be honest and say the Tribesmen look an easy draw for any team in the first round of the qualifiers. But they must react in the appropriate manner from here. There is clearly talent in the county from their All-Ireland U-21 wins.

Everything must be done to ensure those younger guys coming through are nurtured. They must be drilled in the modern way of thinking in terms of having a solid defensive strategy that will allow their natural flair the platform it needs to perform.

I thought the standard wasn't particularly high in the Ulster game between Armagh and Cavan.

The Orchard County never came to grips with the Cavan blanket defence and Jamie Clarke was double-marked, meaning they struggled for scores. They were on top at midfield, but didn't use it in the right manner. Too often they were shooting under pressure and coughed up possession cheaply.

Cavan moved at pace and the diagonal ball to the forwards reaped rewards. They showed tremendous work ethic and good support play and it was very hard to defend against. Martin Dunne looks a class act. He struggled in the opening exchanges, as the nerves appeared to be getting to him, but what a recovery. To get 0-8 from play in your championship debut is the stuff dreams are made of.

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