It appears the tide has, indeed, turned.
Mayo being Mayo, we had to have more drama at the end than we really needed to but, over the course of the 78 or so minutes that were played, we bossed the game for large spells and were full value for the three-point win with which we eventually came away from the Gaelic Grounds.
The concession of early goals has been a weak spot for us all year but this evening we were the ones to rattle the net. Those two majors, both finished by James Carr, were huge for us and put us in control of the game, leaving us a handsome six points to the good at the break.
Before the first one we’d got the game’s first two points, Cillian O’Connor converting a free as early as the first minute, Kevin McLoughlin letting off a snap shot that fizzed over just after.
Our first goal was fortuitous enough, when Galway’s ‘keeper Power made a hash of a harmless ball in, which cannoned out to James Carr who gleefully finished to the net. This was the dream start for us.
Galway settled after that early setback, though, with points from O’Donnell and Cooke getting them going on the scoreboard.
Then James Carr gathered the ball over fifty yards out and hit for goal. He sashayed clear of the flailing cover – I was amazed he wasn’t nailed before he got his shot away – and bore down on Power’s goal. Once within the range he let fly and the net rattled a second time. It was a truly stunning strike from the Ardagh player.
Galway were already staggering and from then until half-time they continued to wobble but, to be fair to them, they did enough before the break to keep the contest alive.
Ten minutes before half-time we had stretched the lead to eight points, following two frees converted by Cillian O’Connor. But Galway got four of the remaining six scores of the first half, the exceptions being a glorious outside-of-the-boot effort from Cillian and a super one from out on the right from Darren Coen.
Damien Comer was introduced from the start of the second half and he quickly made his presence felt, rising to direct a punched effort goalwards only to see it come back off the upright.
But it was us who got more profit in front of the posts early in the second half, with the Coen cousins to the fore. Darren, off the right, got the first of these while Stephen ended a flowing move by smashing over one on the run.
That put us eight clear and Jason Doherty restored that advantage soon after Walsh, from the ’45, scored for them.
But Galway got the next four points, halving that handsome lead we’d enjoyed, as the game – at so many levels – started to come to boiling point. It could have been worse too as Galway got a penalty for a pull down in the square but David Clarke saved Silke’s effort superbly.
When Darren Coen pointed for us in the 61st minute, to end a longish barren spell for us, it felt like a huge score. Huge too was Lee Keegan’s introduction just after, coming on for Fionn McDonagh who had run so much and worked so hard.
Cillian landed a monstrous free from out on the right a few minutes later and, with that, the first of the Galway crowd began to leave their seats. More followed when Donal Vaughan booted over soccer-style, an effort that would have yielded a goal had he managed to keep his shot down.
Six to the good entering injury time, there was no way back for Galway, even with the six additional minutes that were called. They did manage to halve that lead, Shane Walsh driving the ball to the net direct from a 14-yard free but it was too late. We had the chance to have the final say on the scoreboard but Cillian’s free drifted wide. It made no difference as the full-time whistle sounded soon after and we had won by three points.
We’d done it. Not in any kind of swashbuckling manner, as we let Galway back into it far more than we should have done but the bottom line was that we needed to win tonight and win we did. This was a knockout Championship match and we knocked Galway out. That’s got to be a good evening’s work.
So we’ve successfully completed our journey through the qualifiers. At the second time of asking we’re in the Super 8s where a meeting with Kerry is already starting to loom large for us. Let’s leave that for now, however, and instead savour this memorable win, our first over Galway since 2015, one that underscores the point that we’re still a force to be reckoned with in Gaelic football. On we go, onto the next challenge that awaits. Up Mayo.
Mayo: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins; Paddy Durcan, Colm Boyle, Donal Vaughan (0-1); Stephen Coen (0-1), Aidan O’Shea; Fionn McDonagh, Jason Doherty (0-1), James Carr (2-0); Cillian O’Connor (0-6, four frees), Darren Coen (0-3), Kevin McLoughlin (0-1). Subs: Ciaran Treacy for McLoughlin, Evan Regan for Carr, Lee Keegan for McDonagh, Michael Plunkett for Doherty, Eoin O’Donoghue for Durcan, Seamus O’Shea for Vaughan.
Who was our MOTM against Galway? Pick you top three performers
- James Carr (23%, 517 Votes)
- Darren Coen (20%, 445 Votes)
- David Clarke (13%, 287 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (12%, 280 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (12%, 267 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (6%, 142 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (3%, 65 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (2%, 56 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (2%, 52 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (1%, 32 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (1%, 32 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (1%, 24 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (1%, 22 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (1%, 20 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (1%, 14 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (0%, 6 Votes)
- Ciaran Treacy (0%, 5 Votes)
- Evan Regan (0%, 3 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (0%, 3 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (0%, 3 Votes)
- Michael Plunkett (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,229