By Brían Mangan
Galway had 6 points to spare as they dethroned champions Mayo with a strong performance in the Connacht Under 20 Final in Tuam this evening. Galway were far more efficient than their great rivals, with some of the interplay between their forward line a joy to watch. Mayo had no answer to the unselfishness, cohesion and the overall speed of the ball movement used by the Tribesmen throughout the game.
Playing with a slight breeze into the town goals, Galway had a healthy 6 point lead at half time. On a damp humid evening, both teams were guilty of turning over possession on too many occasions as the greasy ball was fumbled under intense pressure. Mayo had a good start, the dangerous Tommy Conroy skinning his marker twice in quick succession to create the first two scores of the evening, one he kicked himself and another free he was hauled down for. Liam Costello then showed his speed for two of his three fine first half points, added to by a classy Rory Cunningham strike to put the Tribesmen infront with a 3-2 lead after the first quarter. Mayo had a lot of bodies back, with Paddy Goldrick spending a lot of time in defence and this frustrated Galway’s dangerous forwards, who struggled for quality ball in the opening exchanges. The visitors also missed three very kickable frees in the first half, which would have annoyed Michael Solan as they were hard won. Substitute Conor Newell kicked a point a minute after being introduced to put Galway 3 up, before Padraig Costello found the range with a sweet kick from the right wing after 28 minutes. Paul Towey then kicked a nice score for Mayo with a minute left with only a minute of normal time remaining, leaving them only three-points in arrears, a situation they would have been relatively pleased with having played against a significant breeze. However Darragh Silke then kicked three fast points just before the break to put Galway 6 up and in an extremely commanding position at the half time whistle.
Galway were able to hold this 6 point advantage until full time and were full value for the winning margin. Rory Cunningham kicked two good scores early in the second half to put them 8 up, and they never looked in danger if being caught after this. Mayo were more than competitive at midfield, wth Evan O’Brien and Gavin Durcan winning a massive amount of primary ball over the hour. Man of the Match Liam Costello was a late inclusion to the Galway starting line up and he kicked his 4th in the 5th minute of the half to extend the advantage to 9, which was the most they led by all day. Tommy Conroy threatened all day for the visitors despite living off scraps, and him and centre forward Paul Towey sparked a mini revival with good scores for Mayo as they got back to 6 with 5 to go, although this was as close as they got. Outstanding captain Seán Mulkerrin was presented with the cup by President of the Connacht Council Gerry McGovern, and on this showing Padraic Joyce’s charges will fancy a real crack at an All Ireland. Next up for them is the Leinster Champions on the weekend of the 27th of July.
Referee: Paddy Neilan
GALWAY: O Burke, R Mahon, S Mulkerrin, E McFadden, L Boyle, C Potter, J Kirrane, M Barrett, L Costello (0-4), M Tierney (0-1f), G Burke, B O’Connell, D Silke (0-5, 0-4fs), P Costello (0-3), R Cunningham (0-3, 0-1f) SUBS: J Glynn, C Newell (0-1), M O’Connell, E Mannion, B Harlowe
MAYO: J McNicholas, J Coyne, R Brickenden, O Mullin, A McDonnell, C Beirne, E McLaughlin, E O’Brien (0-3fs), G Durcan, J Gallagher, P Towey (0-3), P Goldrick, A Orme, S McGreal, T Conroy (0-3) SUBS: N Moran, D McBrien, K Callaghan, D Gannon, C Gavin, K King