Galway beat near rivals Mayo for the second consecutive year in the Connaught Championship by a scoreline 0-15 to 1-11 to book a date in the Connaught final against either Roscommon or Leitrim.
If anybody needed more proof that Galway football is moving in the right direction than look no further than Pierce Stadium on Sunday evening and within a minute set down a marker by scoring the first two points. Sean Armstrong then slotted his first point of the game and with the aid of the wind, Galway were in firm control of the early stages.
However, Mayo showed their experience settling into the contest by keeping the ball and trying to breakdown the tight Galway defence. Kevin McLoughlin pointed for Mayo and then scored the most important score in the first half.
Footballer of the year Lee Keegan attempted point effort hit the post but was rebounded into the net by McLoughlin to put Mayo into the lead. With ten minutes to go until half-time Galway led by two points with Armstrong and the promising Michael Daly causing Mayo trouble. A huge turning point in the game was the sending-off of Keith Higgins. The experienced corner back for Mayo was given his marching orders for striking Damien Comer in the stomach. Galway themselves would have discipline problems with Tom Flynn receiving a black card for a third-man tackle. Armstrong continued his fine form from dead balls scoring a 45 before the end of the half to put Galway into a deserved one point lead at the break, 0-9 to 1-5.
Galway continued to shine in the second half with points from Armstrong and substitute Eamonn Brannigan stretching the lead to three points in the early stages of the second half. Galway were using the extra man well creating space and dominating the midfield. This in turn caused the Mayo management to introduce Aidan O’Shea from the bench. Mayo needed him more than ever as with 10 minutes to play they were four down with two points from Gary Sice adding to the Galway cause, 0-15 to 1-08.
Mayo knowing that their chance of regaining the Connaught championship was slipping away started forcing the issue landing balls into their dull forward line. It almost payed off when goalie Ruairi Lavelle was disposed by Danny Kirby who’s shot was stopped on the line by Johnny Heaney.
Galway began to retreat which invited on more Mayo pressure. Cillian O’Connor was immense in the full-forward line scored his sixth point of the game to put the minimum between the sides. Mayo continued to mount the pressure but Galway stood firm forcing Mayo to shoot from distance with Evan Reegan missing two long distant chances to equalise for Mayo. At the full time whistle there was jubilant scenes as Galway for the second season running are in the Connaught final and in the process putting Mayo into the slippery road of the qualifiers.
Galway: R Lavelle, C Sweeney, D Kyne, L Silke, G Bradshaw (0-1), G O’Donnell (c), D Wynne, T Flynn, F Ó Curraoin, J Heaney (0-1), P Conroy, S Walsh (0-1), M Daly (0-1), D Comer (0-2), S Armstrong (0-6)
Subs: G Sice (0-2) for T Flynn (Black card), E Brannigan for D Wynne, D Cummins for M Daly, M Lundy for G Sice
Mayo: D Clarke, C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins, D Vaughan, L Keegan, P Durcan (0-1), S O’Shea, T Parsons, F Boland (0-1), D O’Connor (0-1), S Coen, K McLoughlin (1-1), C O’Connor (c) (0-6), A Moran (0-1)
Subs: A O’Shea for S O’Shea, D Kirby for A Moran, E Regan for F Boland, C Boyle for D Vaughan
Referee: J McQuillan