GAA Football

Galway keep their grip on Mayo out west

Chris Barrett of Mayo in action against Damien Comer of Galway during the Connacht Senior Championship semi-final match between Galway and Mayo at Pearse Stadium, in Salthill Picture by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
From Declan Rooney at Pearse Stadium, Salthill

Connacht SFC semi-final: Galway 0-15 Mayo 1-11

GALWAY manager Kevin Walsh insisted his side wouldn’t celebrate their win over Mayo too heavily, but the scenes of jubilation that greeted the full-time whistle suggest this was a sweet win for the Tribesmen.

The Fields of Athenry belted out of the Galway dressing room long after the full-time whistle had sounded as the defence of their Connacht title remains on course.

Just a single point separated the teams in the end and Mayo could have scored an equaliser late on but for a couple of poor wides in an absorbing clash at Pearse Stadium.

The visitors played the majority of the game with only 14 players after Keith Higgins saw red in the first-half for clashing with Damien Comer off the ball, but Galway were good value for their triumph.

“Any time you win you’re happy, but we made a decision not to let this game define our season anyway,” said Walsh.

“Last year was really huge that we had to stop the rot and this year it was important we performed. By tomorrow regardless of results we would sit down and assess how we went.

“But having said that it’s great to get them back--to-back as well, so that this team is tested and we are tested and were tested. The resilience was shown in bucketloads today.”

Galway had the wind behind them in the first half and they started strongly to lead 0-3 to 0-0 after just three minutes. Damien Comer, Gareth Bradshaw and Sean Armstrong (free) all kicked scores as the home side looked to make the most of the elements.

But Kevin McLoughlin kicked 1-1 in the space of a minute to bring the sizeable Mayo contingent in the crowd to life. The Knockmore man chipped over a point in the fifth minute before rifling home a goal a minute later. Lee Keegan’s attempted point came back off the post and McLoughlin reacted quickest to gather and fire past Ruairi Lavelle to give Mayo a 1-1 to 0-3 lead.

Armstrong was in fine form for Galway throughout and his assured place-kicking helped Galway to a 0-8 to 1-3 lead before Higgins was dismissed on 26 minutes.

Just a point separated the teams as Galway went in 0-9 to 1-5 up at the interval. Galway stormed out of the blocks after the break as points from Armstrong (free) and substitute Eamonn Brannigan gave the hosts some breathing space.

Armstrong (’45) and Comer kept the scoreboard ticking for Galway and they held a four-point lead with 11 minutes to go.

Sice’s points looked to have put the result beyond doubt but Galway didn’t score again after that as Mayo took control. Cillian O’Connor kicked another free before goal-line heroics from Johnny Heaney denied Mayo a goal as the Killanin man repelled efforts from Danny Kirby and Diarmuid O’Connor in quick succession.

Two inspirational scores from Cillian O’Connor left just a point between the teams with minutes to go, but Galway held on through six minutes of added time.

“Playing with 14 men doesn’t help especially when you’re playing against the Connacht champions and now a Division One team so we ended up playing over 50 minutes in tough, tough conditions,” said Rochford.

“We hit the post, we hit the crossbar, we had a ball cleared off the line and we had two shots in those closing minutes. We didn’t have a malfunction.

“We didn’t have a situation where there was no life in us maybe compared with where we were this time last year. We had umpteen chances to not just draw that game but win it. They are small margins.”

Galway: R Lavelle; C Sweeney, D Kyne, D Wynne; G O’Donnell, G Bradshaw (0-1), D Wynne; F Ó Curraoin, P Conroy; T Flynn, S Walsh (0-1), J Heaney (0-1); M Daly (0-1), D Comer (0-2), S Armstrong (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-3 ’45); Subs: G Sice (0-2, frees) for Flynn (31), E Brannigan (0-1) for Wynne (h-t), D Cummins for Daly (70), M Lundy for Sice (72);

Yellow cards: G Bradshaw (14), F Ó Curraoin (17), D Kyne (68)

Black card: T Flynn (30)

Mayo: D Clarke; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Durcan (0-1), L Keegan, D Vaughan; T Parsons, D O’Connor (0-1); F Boland (0-1), S O’Shea, S Coen; K McLoughlin (1-1), C O’Connor (0-6, 5f), A Moran (0-1); Subs: A O’Shea for

S O’Shea (48), D Kirby for Moran (48), J Doherty for McLoughlin (58), E Regan for Boland (61), C Boyle for Vaughan (69), D Drake for D O’Connor (72)

Yellow cards: A Moran (13), C O’Connor (33); Red card: K Higgins (26)

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

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