Last year we came away from Salthill having failed to overcome the handicap of playing much of the match against Galway with fourteen men. Today at MacHale Park we fell right into the same trap and we ultimately paid the same heavy price.
Up until Diarmuid O’Connor’s first half dismissal we’d been doing okay. Galway, as expected, had thrown out the shawl and only came at us in darting raids but they still managed to open up a two-point lead with what little possession they had. Still, the match was settling down and we were going okay.
Diarmuid led with the forearm and although it was hard to see what happened in real-time I’m told the TV pictures were fairly conclusive. He went on a straight red and immediately the entire narrative of this contest was altered.
Mind you, Galway were damn lucky to still have fifteen on the pitch by then. Kerin tangled with McLoughlin early on, swung at him and connected. He definitely should have walked but whatever the linesman said to Conor Lane was enough to persuade the Cork official to let him off with a yellow.
After Diarmuid’s dismissal I was fearful that Galway might get a right run on us before we had a chance to reassess where we stood at half-time. Instead we stood up well and Andy Moran’s point to cut the deficit back to one just before the whistle was a real morale booster. This was a game we still have a chance in.
The longer the second half went on the more tense and tight it became. Galway were making poor use of the extra man and their attacks were ponderous and indecisive. We turned them over a few times as their aimless forays finally broke down. Maybe, just maybe, we could nick this.
Then Tom Parsons fell to the turf with what clearly was a serious injury. He was given oxygen out on the pitch then was ferried off, his knee already strapped. There’s no word yet on what the injury is but it certainly looked like a season-ending one.
Tom’s loss, on top of Diarmuid’s dismissal, was a hammer blow. Our drive around the middle – despite Seamus O’Shea’s manful efforts – was weakened and even though we now had Cillian O’Connor on the field, our shape was starting to go.
Still we kept taking the game to them. Cillian fizzed a cracking long ranger over the bar and when Kevin McLoughlin popped over a point to put us ahead it began to look like we might just do it.
But back came Galway again, levelling the match once more and then hunting for the scores that would finally kill us off.
It was into injury time – and there was plenty of that, unsurprisingly, given what had happened – before the fatal blow was finally delivered. We’d protected our goal really well all day but this time they broke through and Johnny Heaney’s piledriver from close-in gave David Clarke no chance.
They was no way back from that. We got one more point but so did they and they won by the goal at the finish.
We can’t complain about the result, nor can we be unhappy about the sending off. Ultimately we lost this game because we lost a player completely needlessly early on in a contest where cool heads were an absolute prerequisite. To that extent, we’ve nobody to blame today but ourselves.
That said, we showed enormous battling qualities – the attributes this side have shown in spades again and again over the years – to keep going right to the end. It took a special score from Galway to finish us off today – and fair play to them for that – and we can at least take comfort from the fact that we kept going as the odds became stacked ever greater against us.
And so, for the third year in a row, there’s no Connacht title – no Connacht final appearance, even – for us this year. Once again we’re thrust into the Russian roulette that is the qualifiers. Four rounds simply to make the Super 8s and unseeded when we get there.
This team has proven its worth in the face of adversity in the past. Once again, it’s that hard road on which we’re now obliged to travel this summer. That was the ultimate cost of what befell us at MacHale Park today.
Mayo: David Clarke; Eoin O’Donoghue, Chris Barrett, Keith Higgins (0-1); Paddy Durcan, Colm Boyle, Stephen Coen; Seamus O’Shea, Tom Parsons (0-1); Kevin McLoughlin (0-2), Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1); Conor Loftus (0-3, frees), Jason Doherty, Andy Moran (0-2). Subs: Cillian O’Connor (0-2, one free) for Parsons, David Drake for Loftus, James Durcan for Doherty, Cian Hanley for Seamus O’Shea, Brendan Harrison for O’Donoghue, Donal Vaughan for Moran.
Who was our MOTM against Galway? Pick your top three performers.
- Keith Higgins (35%, 462 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (15%, 203 Votes)
- Tom Parsons (9%, 126 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (7%, 100 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (7%, 87 Votes)
- David Clarke (5%, 67 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (4%, 49 Votes)
- Andy Moran (3%, 43 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (3%, 39 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (2%, 33 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (2%, 30 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (2%, 24 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (1%, 17 Votes)
- Cian Hanley (1%, 15 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (1%, 11 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (1%, 9 Votes)
- David Drake (1%, 7 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (0%, 5 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (0%, 5 Votes)
- James Durcan (0%, 4 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (0%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 837