Despite the wet and windy weather, a big crowd of over 2,500 assembled at MacHale Park tonight for the refixed FBD League game between ourselves and Galway. What they got to witness sounded like a real blood and thunder pre-season clash, one in which the visitors extended their recent winning run over us, this time despite having no fewer than three players ordered off before the finish.
It must have been touch-and-go as to whether or not this game – at the second time of asking in less than a week – went ahead at all. Heavy rain all day long left the pitch sodden, its surface laden with puddles. Following a pitch inspection at 6pm it was confirmed that the ball would indeed be thrown in.
We made three changes to the team named earlier in the day and, predictably, it was the three lads who had played against Leitrim on Wednesday evening who made way. Adam Gallagher started instead of Ger McDonagh, Shane Nally came in for Fionn McDonagh and Kevin McLoughlin lined out in place of Neil Douglas.
Despite the horrendous conditions, both teams started with determination and the umpires at both ends were kept busy. With the wind behind us we got the night’s opening score, an outside-of-the-boot effort from Kevin McLoughlin, which the visitors cancelled out via a Sweeney point.
Two super scores from distance from Shane Nally followed for us but three unanswered Galway points – from Conroy, Brannigan and McHugh (a free) – edged the visitors in front for the first time.
We responded with four scores without reply at the other end. Three points in succession from Brian Reape, two from frees, followed by Kevin McLoughlin’s second point of the night, this one from a free, saw us claim a three-point advantage.
Paul Conroy’s second point cut the gap to two but then Kevin Mc got his third score for us. Another McHugh free left two between the teams at the break.
Soon after the restart, we got the night’s opening goal. Brian Reape turned over the Galway full-back and offloaded to Peter Naughton who found the net with confidence. Cunnigham, from a Kelly delivery, then responded with Galway’s first point of the second half.
We made our first change early in the second half, with Diarmuid O’Connor coming in for Shane Nally. Damien Comer also joined the fray around the same time for Duggan, as a second Cunningham point pared the gap back to three points.
Soon after Galway were level. Sweeney shot towards goal in the crowded square and the ball ricocheted to the net. Then another free from McHugh put Galway back in front and Comer from play doubled their advantage.
Comer’s next involvement in the game was his last of the evening. As he tried to go by Kevin Keane, the hot-headed Galway forward lashed out with the elbow and got a straight red for his trouble.
Soon after young Mulkerrins in the full-back line walked as well. He pulled down Peter Naughton and got a black but, as he was already on yellow, that meant a second red for the vistors with a bit over ten minutes left.
Despite the significant numerical advantage they now enjoyed, our lads found the going hard playing into the strong wind as they tried to salvage something from the game. Galway, pouring all their forces back into defence, did a good job of frustrating the home team.
We huffed and puffed from then to the finish. We finally got a point back deep in stoppage time – our first minor of the second half – when Ryan O’Donoghue was dragged down by Sean Andy Kelly and Brian Reape tapped over the free.
That foul resulted in a third red card for Galway – with Kelly picking up a second yellow – but it was too late to make any difference. The visitors, now down to twelve men, held on for the last few seconds and closed out the win by the narrowest of margins.
The boastful duo on Galway Bay FM were a bit hard to listen to while all this was happening but it sounds like the Tribesmen were decent value for their win. From our perspective it could well be argued that, for the second time this week, we left the result behind us.
So, it’s no pre-season glory for us once again this year. Not to worry, there’s still the Rossies to look forward to on Sunday when, no doubt, more high-octane January fare will be on the menu.
Mayo: David Clarke; Steven Duffy, Kevin Keane, Jamie Oates; Michael Plunkett, Michael Hall, Shairoze Akram; Adam Gallagher, Jason Gibbons; Shane Nally (0-2), Kevin McLoughlin (0-3, one free), Matthew Ruane; Ryan O’Donoghue, Brian Reape (0-4, three frees), Peter Naughton (1-0). Subs: Diarmuid O’Connor for Nally, Ger McDonagh for Ruane, James Stretton for Akram, Fionn McDonagh for Gallagher.