Connacht Semi Final
Galway defeated Mayo for the second year running after a heart-stopping contest played in blustery conditions in Pearse Stadium today, eventually prevailing on a score-line of 0-15 to 1-11. Mayo had their chances to equalise in added time, but a long range Cillian O’Connor free and two speculative Evan Regan efforts just drifted agonisingly wide.
It was Galway who started the brighter playing with the aid of the strong wind, and two huge points inside a minute from Damian Comer and Gareth Bradshaw gave them the perfect start. Seán Armstrong was in deadly form from placed balls and landed four sublime efforts from long range in the first half, and two more in the second half. Mayo responded to Galway’s early burst with 1-1 from Kevin McLoughlin, his goal an opportunist effort following up as all good forwards should when Lee Keegan’s effort for a point came back off the post. In the 26th minute came the decisive moment of perhaps the whole game, Keith Higgins receiving a straight red card after having a rush of blood to the head and getting involved in an off the ball incident with Comer. It was delicately poised at half time, Galway leading by 0-9 to 1-5, and the bumper crowd of over 23,000 was thankful for the opportunity to draw breath.
The second half began the same as the first, with early points from an Armstrong free and substitute Eamonn Brannigan stretching the Galway advantage to three. Mayo struggled to close the gap as the teams exchanged points for the next twenty minutes, Patrick Durcan and Damian Comer kicking monster points for either team. The game was played at a frantic pace, with the fact that both teams kicked the majority of their kick outs short which contributed to this. Then Mayo surged again despite their numerical disadvantage, and Cillian O’Connor kicked the last three points of the game, including one colossal free from close to the 65metre line to put the bare minimum between the sides as the clock ticked into stoppage time. However, try as they might Mayo couldn’t break the gallant Galway rearguard, for whom captain Gary O’Donnell and sweeper Johnny Heaney were particularly impressive. Galway now advance to a Connacht Final showdown on the 9th of July with either Roscommon or Leitrim who play each other next weekend.
Galway: R Lavelle; C Sweeney, D Kyne, L Silke; G Bradshaw (0-01), G O’Donnell (c), D Wynne; T Flynn, F Ó Curraoin; J Heaney (0-01), P Conroy, S Walsh (0-01); M Daly (0-01), D Comer (0-02), S Armstrong (0-06, 0-03f, 0-03’45).
Subs: G Sice (0-02, 0-02f) for Flynn (31 BC), E Brannigan (0-01) for Wynne (h-t), D Cumins for Daly (70), M Lundy for Sice (72),
Mayo: D Clarke; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; D Vaughan, L Keegan, P Durcan (0-01); S O’Shea, T Parsons; F Boland (0-01), D O’Connor (0-01), S Coen; K McLoughlin (1-01), C O’Connor (c) (0-06, 0-05f), A Moran (0-01).
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 (73).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).