'You've seen more than I have. I didn't see anything' - Galway boss on mass brawls that marred League clash
Galway 1-13 Mayo 0-11
The Connacht Council could announce a 100 per cent increase in ticket prices for the Mayo-Galway Connacht championship quarter-final in Castlebar on May 13 and still be guaranteed a capacity crowd.
Yesterday's sulphurous clash in Pearse Stadium further whets appetites for a rematch which will, of course, carry far greater significance than a third round league clash.
Still, every advantage is important and Galway appear to have the upper hand psychologically after adding a Division 1 victory to two successive Connacht semi-final triumphs against Mayo in the last two years. Plus, of course, they also beat Mayo in the FBD Connacht League last month.
The significance of that sequence is for another day, but for now Galway are enjoying a spring campaign that looked beyond their capabilities after rejoining the top flight for the first time in seven years.
Wins over Tyrone, Donegal and Mayo leave them in second place in the Division 1 table, trailing Dublin on scoring difference only.
"Six points on the board out of six is very, very pleasing. It takes a bit of pressure off for certain parts of the league," said Galway manager Kevin Walsh.
"It's really disappointing. We weren't at the pitch of it in any shape, way or form," said Mayo boss Stephen Rochford.
Unfortunately for football's image and the reputations of both counties, there was a lot more to discuss about this game than Galway's progressive patterns and Mayo's disjointed resistance. Feisty throughout, it disintegrated into an angry mess in the closing stages. The first outbreak of mayhem erupted in the 65th minute and involved over 20 players.
It took Wicklow referee Anthony Nolan quite some time to sort it out, after which he booked Galway trio Sean Andy Ó Ceallaigh, Cathal Sweeney and Paul Conroy, and Mayo's Aidan O'Shea.
Shortly afterwards, hostilities were resumed and ended with Conroy departing on a second yellow card.
Even that didn't convince either side to calm down and, as the exchanges grew even more spiteful in eight minutes of stoppage-time, the O'Connor brothers, were dismissed - Cillian on a straight red card, Diarmuid on a second yellow.
By the end, the card count had zoomed up to 18 - 15 yellow and three red. The embarrassing orgy of indiscipline saw Galway pick up nine yellows and one red card, while Mayo had six yellows and two reds.
Rochford put Mayo's contribution to the ugly undercurrent down to frustration.
"We lost our discipline and that's something we have to look at," he said.
However, he noted that Galway had three players booked in the incident where O'Shea was also yellow-carded.
"That begs the larger question how a Mayo player was booked when three Galway players were hanging out of him. That's one for the officials," he said.
Walsh claimed he hadn't seen anything, which put him in a unique position compared to the 9,850 spectators who saw just about everything.
"You've seen more than I have, being down on the sideline. I didn't see anything. I haven't a lot to say on it, other than we don't like to see too much of that going on.
"I'm very conscious that every player who gets to wear the county jersey is going to fight for his jersey. Look, whatever happened when the handbags started, you saw a lot more than me," he said. Quite how that was the case remains a mystery, but Walsh was in no mood to elaborate.
He had far more positive aspects to dwell on, notably the manner in which Galway squeezed Mayo into submission in the second-half.
They started it two points ahead, but with a strong wind blowing into the town goal, Mayo looked well-placed to pick up their second win of the campaign.
They had held Galway scoreless for the final 16 minutes of the first-half, a period in which the home team looked completely different to the confident outfit that had galloped into a 1-4 to 0-2 lead after 19 minutes.
The goal came a minute earlier from an excellent strike by Barry McHugh.
Shane Walsh's pace, Damien Comers' fetching ability and Eamonn Brannigan's relentless running had caused the Mayo defence all kinds of problems before the balance shifted quite significantly coming up to half-time.
Mayo failed to take a few early chances in the second-half before Galway pounced for two points, giving them a cushion which helped sustained them all the way to the finish.
Mayo cut the lead to three points in the 47th minute, but that was as good as it got for them as they lacked the guile to find a way into the shooting zone.
Galway continued to hit them on the break and opened up a seven-point lead late on before Mayo pulled back two points.
"We had a chance to get a score or two early in the second-half, but didn't take them and Galway came down and scored two points. And, like most of the game, we were playing second fiddle from there on," said Rochford.
The defeat leaves Mayo on two points from three games, with Dublin next up. Struggling in the early part of the league is familiar territory for Mayo in recent years, but they have always managed to do enough to survive in Division 1.
It's a challenge they are facing again and this time they will be without Cillian O'Connor for some of the games.
"We found ourselves in this type of position before. There's no way back except through hard work. We know that," said Rochford.
It's all very different for Galway, who started the campaign among the favourites for relegation. Instead, they are at the other end of the table as they look to their next outing against Kerry on the weekend after next.
Their confidence is sky-high after not only winning their first three games, but doing so without conceding a goal - something no other team in the top three divisions have managed.
"That's pleasing. Bar one or two games last year, we've been fairly right," said Walsh.
Inevitably the question among the spectators as they left a bitterly cold Salthill was what, if any, impact the game will have on either camp for the championship encounter.
"I don't know. Visibly, Galway were more up for it today, said Rochford.
Presumably he believes that particular part of the equation will have evened up by May. It will need to if Mayo are to survive against the rapidly improving Tribesmen.
Does Walsh think this game will have any relevance when the sides clash again later on?
"I don't see how it would," he said.
And the personal battle with Rochford which, so far, has gone very much Walsh's way?
"It's not about me or Stephen Rochford. it's about us getting the very best out of our own players."
Scorers - Galway: B McHugh 1-3 (2f), E Brannigan 0-3, S Walsh (1f), D Comer, P Conroy 0-2 each, J Heaney 0-1.
Mayo: C O'Connor 0-5 (5f), K McLoughlin (f), J Doherty (f), P Durcan, D O'Connor, C Boyle, E O'Donoghue 0-1 each.
Galway: R Lavelle 7; D Kyne 7, SA O Ceallaigh 7, E Kerin 8; C Sweeney 7, G Bradshaw 7, S Kelly 7; P Conroy 7, P Cooke 7; J Heaney 7, S Walsh 7, E Brannigan 8; P Sweeney 7, D Comer 8, B McHugh 8. Subs: S Armstrong 7 for Sweeney (ht), T Flynn 6 for Cooke (60), A Varley for McHugh (72), G O'Donnel for Kelly (76), C D'Arcy for Comer (77), J Duane for Bradshaw (77).
Mayo: D Clarke 7; G Cafferkey 6, C Crowe 6, E O'Donoghue 6; C Boyle 7 P Durcan 7; S Coen 6; J Gibbons 6, A O'Shea 6; K McLoughlin 6, M Hall 5,D O'Connor 6; C O'Connor 5, J Doherty 6, C Loftus 5. Subs: A Gallagher 6 for Loftus (57), F Boland 6 for McLoughlin (59), G McDonagh for Gibbons (61), J Stretton for Boyle (62), S Nally for Durcan (79).
Ref - A Nolan (Wicklow)
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