Mayo delighted to Reape victory over Galway, but Kevin McStay wary with Roscommon next up

Mayo celebrate their Allianz Football League Division One Final win over Galway. Pic Philip Walsh
Mayo celebrate their Allianz Football League Division One Final win over Galway. Pic Philip Walsh

Allianz Football League Division One Final: Mayo 0-14 Galway 0-11

Mayo surely must be worried. The last time they won the League, four years ago, they were knocked out of the Connacht Championship - by Roscommon, who they host this coming Sunday.

On the previous occasion when Mayo won a senior national title, also beating arch-rivals Galway in the 2001 National League Final, the Tribesmen recovered to win the All-Ireland, in a new football format, as is the case this year.

Still, although it was no surprise that Mayo manager Kevin McStay initially professed himself "relieved" to have held off their neighbours, he was also understandably "overall delighted" that they'd capped off a fine league campaign by lifting the New Ireland Cup.

When you're a county as apparently cursed as Mayo have been, losing 11 All-Ireland SFC deciders since their last triumph, back in 1951, you accept Croke Park joy whenever you get it.

McStay described his feelings as "relieved, quite satisfied, delighted - and there is a part of me saying, 'Cool down now,' because we have to get ready for next Sunday.

"That's just the pity of it, the timing side of it but that's nothing anybody can do anything about. But overall I'm just delighted, yeah. It's great to come up and win a national title, so very pleased."

Mayo would undoubtedly welcome more of the rub of the green that went their way against Galway.

Goalkeeper Colm Reape was perhaps fortunate to escape a red card for clattering into Johnny Heaney, an incident which forced the centre half-forward from Killanin off the field a few minutes later.

Galway boss Padraic Joyce did not say that it should have been a sending-off but he did argue the case for a penalty, even though Heaney had got his shot away and sent it wide:

"It was a poor call, I thought. The rule nowadays is if you deny a clear goalscoring chance it supposed to be a penalty but obviously it wasn't the rule today.

"There's no one being biased. A rule is a rule. David Gough gave one last week for Monaghan against Mayo when a fella got pulled down on the 21 and this was given as a free-in for a tackle so what was the free for? Obviously hurting the man.

"Either implement the rules or not. That's not sour grapes. It's one of these things that would have made a difference in the game but at the end of the day we didn't kick enough over the bar and Mayo did and they won the game."

To add salt to the Tribe wounds, Reape went on to make three excellent second half saves, denying Galway a potentially game-changing goal.

None was better than when he somehow kept out a rocket from Galway substitute Damien Comer, which made a major difference.

Mayo led from the fourth minute to the last, with Reape putting them in front from a free, but could have fallen behind when Comer caught a great long kick-pass and stepped past opposing captain Paddy Durcan before unleashing a fierce right-foot blast – but Reape saved superbly low to his left.

Shane Walsh sent the subsequent '45' wide and in the 64th minute Comer had a 'score' from a mark ruled out by Hawkeye, which would have left the minimum margin between the teams.

Knockmore man Reape also did very well to keep out a zooming shot from Peter Cooke into added time, but Mayo held a four-point lead by that stage and Galway managed only one more score, from substitute Dessie Conneelly.

Mayo had showed their mental mettle to stretch their lead out late on, having struggled somewhat for scores after a very strong start. They did much of their damage in the opening quarter, registering almost half their scores by the 16th minute, when Jordan Flynn put them five up, 0-6 to 0-1.

Amazingly, that proved to be their last score from play until the 70th minute, when corner-back Jack Coyne popped up to leave more than a goal between the teams.

Of course they had kept the scoreboard ticking over from placed balls, mostly through Ryan O'Donoghue, who finished as top scorer with 0-7, five frees and two marks.

Joyce accepted that Mayo merited their victory, saying: "I thought overall we played okay but never set the world on fire out there at the same time.

"I think we scored six times out of 16 chances in the second half, which tells its own tale, and Mayo had 10 scores between frees and two marks and their goalkeeper gets 'man of the match' – so, look, it's frustrating, definitely.

"We just couldn't get back level to try and put a bit more pressure on Mayo but fair play to them. Kevin has done a good job with them since he came in. They've probably been the form team in the league.

"Congratulations, they were the better team on the day. They saw the game out well, they got a big impact from Tommy Conroy and a few of the lads that they took in as well, so no complaints."

In contrast to the group stage of the league, it was Mayo demonstrating defensive solidity, especially early on, boosted by the efforts of their midfielders. First Matthew Ruane made a couple of interceptions, then Diarmuid O'Connor twice executed high blocks.

Galway weren't helped by loose handling and stray hand-passing in that opening quarter.

Their captain Sean Kelly did power upfield to find Rob Finnerty, who laid the ball off for midfielder John Maher, but his low shot was saved by Reape.

McStay's men continued to be positive and clinical going forward, with Ryan O'Donoghue lively, and skipper Paddy Durcan getting forward for a score.

The tide turned somewhat after Galway almost grabbed a goal. John Daly strode forward from centre half-back and hand-passed over-the-top to Johnny Heaney, who flicked a shot past advancing goalkeeper Reape. Heaney was clattered, and Reape was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card.

The Killanin man stayed on, but only for a few minutes, after receiving prolonged treatment, but at least his replacement was Comer.

His introduction lifted the Galway support, and his team-mates, and after a patient period of possession Shane Walsh scored from distance.

When Maher wriggled through to fist a point there was only one between the sides, but Mayo found their shooting sights again, with O'Donoghue and Reape pulling them three clear, 0-8 to 0-5.

Galway pushed hard, a quick-fire double from Rob Finnerty reducing the gap, but Mayo responded, James Carr bringing a top stop out of Connor Gleeson, but Reape converted the '45'.

He did his job at the other end again too, saving from Matthew Tierney, and collectively Mayo just about managed to fend off Galway.

McStay acknowledged that this win brought that quintessential Mayo mixture of hope and fear, commenting: "I think we still showed the greater desire to win it, which is always nice, and I think we'll take a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence from winning today.

"But I'm very aware of how dangerous next week's fixture is and there is part of me already where my brain is jumping to that, I'm kind of nearly afraid to talk about what happened today, in one respect."

Mayo: C Reape (0-3, 0-2 frees, 0-1 45); J Coyne (0-1), D McBrien, S Callinan; S Coen, C Loftus, P Durcan (capt.) (0-1); M Ruane, D O'Connor; F McDonagh, J Carney, J Flynn (0-1); A O'Shea, J Carr (0-1), R O'Donoghue (0-7, 0-5 frees, 0-2 marks).

Substitutes: E McLaughlin for McBrien (h-t); T Conroy for Csrr (56); D McHale for McDonagh (66); B Tuohy for Ruane (70); P O'Hora for Coyne (73).

Galway: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Kelly (capt.) (0-1), S Fitzgerald; D McHugh, J Daly, C Hernon; P Conroy (0-1 free), J Maher (0-1); M Tierney, J Heaney, P Cooke (0-1); R Finnerty (0-2, 0-1 free), S Walsh (0-4, 0-1 free, 0-1 45), C Sweeney.

Substitutes: D Comer (0-1 free) for Heaney (inj., 33); J Glynn for Hernon (h-t); T Culhane for Finnerty (62); D O'Flaherty for Sweeney (65); D Conneely for Conroy (72).

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).