Tuesday 19 March 2019

Tribe have arrived at top table but Mayo can stay ahead in queue for best seat

Winning an All-Ireland title provides a momentum surge that runner-up finishes never can. Photo: Sportsfile
Winning an All-Ireland title provides a momentum surge that runner-up finishes never can. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

In his 'Tuam Herald' column this week, Jim Carney enlisted the title of a play, written by Tuam's very own Tom Murphy, to conjure up a sentiment which many share when it comes to recent interactions between Galway and Mayo.

"To borrow the title of a Tom Murphy play, it's 'Too Late for Logic' when trying to assess what happened to Galway and Mayo in the championship over the last two years," wrote Carney. So it is. Galway beat Mayo in both Connacht campaigns, yet it was the green-and-red that swirled around Croke Park on All-Ireland final Sundays, with the maroon and white redundant after the quarter-finals.

Mayo fell at the final fence in both years but the stubbornness and fortitude they showed after the defeats by Galway underlines the depth of their obsession to land the big prize.

Question is - how much more power remains in batteries that have required re-charging so often over the last six years?

Winning an All-Ireland title provides a momentum surge that runner-up finishes never can. Indeed, the latter experience, if endured more than once, often drains a squad of so much energy that they never recover.

Not Mayo. Or at least not Mayo at their best. Nobody has come closer to dislodging Dublin in recent years, yet they haven't even a Connacht title to show for their efforts since 2015. Cue Tom Murphy and 'Too Late for Logic' again.

Mayo's league form has been erratic for quite some time, dipping to the lower end this year when they needed a dramatic late equaliser against Donegal to remain in Division 1 after taking only five of a possible 14 points.

Galway, meanwhile, started the campaign among the favourites for relegation, only to top the table with 13 points before losing to Dublin in the final where the four-point winning margin flattered the winners. It was by far the most decisive move by any of Dublin's pursuers.

Even Galway's most optimistic supporters were surprised by how efficiently the squad responded to the demands of life in the top division. It was achieved mainly off a huge defensive transformation, which enabled them to end the campaign with the lowest concession rate of the 16 counties in the top two divisions. Incredibly, it was significantly better than in any of the six seasons Galway spent encountering inferior defences in Division 2. Mayo were among the victims of the improved security, having been restricted to 0-11 in Pearse Stadium on a day when their attack scored only one point from open play.

When Galway's impressive rate of improvement is combined with Mayo's poor form in recent Connacht Championships and Allianz Leagues, the obvious conclusion to be drawn is that Kevin Walsh's crew are poised for third successive win over their neighbours.

But this is Mayo v Galway, complete with its capacity for zapping logic. Besides, the memory of Mayo's win over Kerry and desperately close call against Dublin last autumn is still sufficiently fresh to remind everyone of their capabilities on better days.

If they replicate one of them tomorrow, they can book a Connacht semi-final clash with Sligo on June 3.

Irish Independent

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