by Brían Mangan
Two goals in the last five minutes gave Galway a seven point victory in the finish over Mayo in Castlebar this evening in Round 4 of the Connacht Minor Championship, but this was a much tighter affair than the final scoreline suggests. Tomo Culhane rifled home a penalty with 5 minutes to go to finally shake off a spirited Mayo outfit who matched Galway stride for stride until the final stages, before substitute Niall Cunningham emphatically finished via the post in injury time to put some gloss on it for the Tribesmen.
There was absolutely nothing between the teams at half time after a tight half, the teams going in 0-4 each at the break. Mayo had goalie Luke Jennings to thank for going in all square after his brilliant save from a close-range Warren Seoige effort in stoppage time following a spectacular catch from the Leitir Móir man 13 yards out. Galway struggled to adjust to the breeze blowing into their faces in the early stages as a number of their shots dropped badly short. Frank Irwin capitalised on slack marking for the opening two scores of the game for Mayo, stroking over two identical points in the 3rd and 4th minutes. Galway fullback Ruairí King tightened up after this shaky start and himself and Irwin went on to have a great tussle for the remainder of the half, with King getting a fist in on numerous occasions to halt dangerous attacks. Galway got to grips and rattled off three rapid points in a row to take the lead midway through the half, with Daniel Cox, Evan Nolan and Tomo Culhane all finding the target, before a fine Eoin Gilraine point for Mayo from long range having won a Galway kickout himself levelling the score again 21 minutes in. The fact both teams tended to go long with their kickouts led to a very entertaining contest in the middle third, Ethan Henry and James McLoughlin taking some outstanding marks throughout the game, with neither team conceding an inch. Ciaran Mylett nailed a tricky free from a difficult angle to nudge Mayo in front before Cox fed Culhane unselfishly to equalise for Galway before the half time whistle.
The second half burst into life with 5 points in the first 5 minutes, 3 for Galway and 2 for Mayo. First of all Nathan Grainger kicked a beauty of a 45 before Ruairí Keane burst 50 metres from centre back for the score of the game a minute later to level the game 5 all. Led by the increasingly dominant James McLoughlin at midfield, Galway started to edge in front and courtesy of fine scores from Cian Hernon, Evan Nolan and Culhane, they managed to get three points ahead twenty minutes in, 0-11 to 0-8. Mayo were giving as good as they got, and with Liam Tevnan thundering into the game from the half back line, the game was very much in the melting pot before Culhanes clinically dispatched penalty. Ciaran Mylett kicked his frees well throughout (as did Culhane at the other end), and Conor Reid was a threat when he was introduced, but in the end Galway deserved their hard fought victory, mainly due to their cuter, more clinical forwards.
Galway have now two wins having beaten Mayo and Sligo and lost to Roscommon. Mayo have won two and lost two, having beaten Leitrim and Roscommon and lost to Galway and Sligo. In the other game tonight Sligo had a 1-20 to 1-9 win over Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon. The final round of games takes place next Friday night with Sligo hosting Roscommon in Markievicz Park and Leitrim travelling to play Galway in Tuam.
Mayo: L Jennings, A Morrison, O Tunney, A Cosgrove, E Murphy, R Keane (0-1), E Gilraine (0-1), D Thornton, E Henry, P Heneghan, P Walsh, C Boland, C Mylett (0-5, 0-4fs), F Irwin (0-2), R Morrin SUBS S Dempsey C Reid (0-1), R Hughes, C O’Connell
Galway: D Halleran, J McGrath, R King, L Tevnan, C Hernon (0-1), E Fiorentini, D McNulty, J McLoughlin (0-1), D O’Flaherty, E Nolan (0-2), D Cox (0-1), D Brady, N Grainger (0-4, 0-1 ’45), T Culhane (1-4, 1-2fs), W Seoige SUBS C Gallagher, N Cunningham (1-0), R Burke