Mayo 2-14 Galway 2-8
Mayo produced a powerful second half recovery to retain their Connacht title against ancient rivals Galway at Croke Park.
Galway led by five points at half time but endured a miserable second period, failing to score from play, with man of the match Matthew Ruane sealing Mayo’s win with a brilliant goal three minutes from full time.
Galway wilted after a promising first half that had goals from Shane Walsh and Damien Comer, both playing well, along with midfielder Paul Conroy. But Mayo were a changed team after the interval and hit 1-6 without reply, boosted by a goal from a penalty from Ryan O’Donoghue within two minutes of the restart.
Tierney finally ended Galway’s scoring drought with a free in the 62nd minute and after a goal from O’Donoghue was ruled out for an earlier foul another Tierney free gave Galway hope, leaving them only two points adrift with 66 minutes played.
But Ruane’s goal, after a solo run at the Galway defence, put the match beyond them and meant that for the first time since the 1930s they suffered a third successive provincial final loss.
The match was moved out of the province to allow an increased capacity of 18,000, though Croke Park hosted a Connacht final once before, way back in 1923, a replay in which Galway defeated Sligo.
Mayo started more assertively, dominating Galway’s kick outs, and led 0-4 to 0-3 at the first water break having faced the wind. O’Donoghue and Patrick Durcan both got on the scoresheet and they moved the ball around confidently.
But after the water break Galway found their rhythm. Conroy had already established a firm foothold around the middle of the field and was covering a vast amount of ground as well as scoring two first quarter points.
A third point attempt from Conroy in the 19th minute came off an upright and Mayo were slow to react, allowing Walsh to snatch the ball and hammer it to the net. For the first time Galway led, 1-3 to 0-4.
Walsh, who was being picked up by Lee Keegan, had opened Galway’s scoring after seven minutes and he made a further telling impact when setting up a second Galway goal for Comer 20 minutes later. Walsh raced past Aidan O’Shea and Durcan before laying off the pass to Comer who finished from close range.
Mayo had only one clear first half goal chance and felt the loss of Cillian O’Connor as a steadying influence. That opportunity fell to Conor Loftus who found a lot of room after being found by Ruane, but his shot from the 20m line cleared the cross bar in first half injury time.
Galway went in at the interval leading 2-5 to 0-6, a late point attempt by Peter Cooke ruled out by Hawk-Eye.
By then Galway had been forced to make two substitutions, with Robert Finnerty and Sean Kelly leaving the field with injuries.
Mayo looked in serious trouble but received the perfect start to the second half when less than two minutes in O’Donoghue goaled from a penalty after the outstanding Ruane was fouled in the square. O’Donoghue hit O’Shea, now stationed at full forward, with a long ball which he fielded and then laid off to Ruane.
From the spot O’Donoghue sent Connor Gleeson the wrong way and Mayo were within two points of their rivals.
They made a double substitution at half time, bringing on Eoghan McLaughlin and Kevin McLoughlin for Bryan Walsh and Darren McHale ad when Tommy Conroy burrowed his way through thick Galway cover to hit his first point the lead was down to just one point, 2-5 to 1-7, six minutes into the second half. Suddenly Mayo had a bounce while Galway began to hit wides and lose their way.
They drew level with Ruane’s second point in the 48th minute and went ahead a minute later to a deafening roar, Kevin McLoughlin finishing cooly. McLoughlin had a huge say after coming off the bench.
The momentum had shifted completely and Galway’s reversal of fortune was summed up when moments before McLoughlin’s point Comer hit the crossbar with a fisted effort. A free from O’Donoghue left Mayo leading 1-10 to 2-5 at the second water break, Galway having failed to score in the third quarter, outscored 1-4 to 0-0.
Mayo power on to the semi finals where they face Dublin or Kildare.
Mayo - R O’Donoghue 1-3 (1-0 pen, 2fs); M Ruane 1-2; T Conroy, C Loftus 0-2 each; P Durcan, D McHale, K McLoughlin, R Hennelly (45), J Carr 0-1 each.
Galway - S Walsh 1-1; M Tierney 0-4 (3fs); D Comer 1-0; P Conroy 0-2; C Sweeney 0-1.
Mayo: R Hennelly; L Keegan, P O’Hora, M Plunkett; P Durcan, O Mullen, S Coen; M Ruane, A O’Shea; B Walsh, D O’Connor, C Loftus; T Conroy, D McHale, R O’Donoghue.
Subs: K McLaughlin for Walsh & E McLaughlin for McHale (both ht); R Brickenden for O’Hora (inj 60); E Hession for Plunkett (65); J Carr for O’Shea (68); C O’Shea for O’Connor (76).
Galway: C Gleeson; S Kelly, D McHale, L Silke; K Molloy, S Kelly, J Heaney; P Conroy, M Tierney; D Comer, P Cooke, C Sweeney; R Finnerty, S Walsh, P Kelly.
Subs: F O Laoi for Finnerty (inj 17 mins); J Glynn for S Kelly inj 26); M Farragher for Sweeney (51); E Brannigan for P Kelly (56); J Duane for S Walsh (inj 71).
Referee: C Lane (Cork).