Thinking of the Tribesmen

Photo: GAA.ie

Connacht final weekend is just up ahead of us, with our first provincial decider appearance in five years taking place on Sunday. We’re set to take on Galway at Pearse Stadium then for possession of the Nestor Cup. Throw-in is 1.30pm, Seán Hurson of Tyrone is the ref and the match is live on RTÉ2 with match commentary on Midwest Radio as well.

This is, needless to say, a massive game for both teams. With all due respect and deference to both Cork and Tipperary, Kerry’s ejection from the Championship last weekend has blown open our side of the draw. Whoever emerges from Salthill with the silverware on Sunday will, with justification, fancy their chances of making it to the All-Ireland final on the weekend before Christmas.

But, of course it’s massive – it’s knockout football. While we’ve recent form as regards eliminating the neighbours from the Championship – we did for them, don’t forget, in Round 4 of the qualifiers down in Limerick last summer – you have to go all the way back to 1998 for the most recent time that they turfed us out of the running. Things didn’t go half bad for them that summer having done so either.

But let’s take last year’s match in Limerick as our point of departure when considering what Galway have been up to of late. A departure gate that result proved to be for them too, as it brought the curtain down on Kevin Walsh’s tenure as Galway manager.

The Tribesmen started this year with a fair old pep in their step under new man Padraic Joyce. We let them off the hook in an FBD League encounter in mid-January, when a late, late comeback saw them level the tie and then they beat us on penalties. They went on to win the FBD final and so came into their Division One campaign with a nice bounce.

Until Covid struck, they were having a cracking spring campaign. Indeed, such was their form that they were already being loudly touted as genuine challengers to Dublin for the All-Ireland. Come to think of it, maybe they still are.

They started their League schedule at Sunday’s venue where they prevailed by a point in a close 1-14 to 0-16 encounter with Monaghan. Their next two games were very close too, both of which were also decided by the minimum margin.

The Kerry game was the one that got away, as they left Tralee beaten by just a single point, 1-15 to 2-11. That result was, however, balanced by their next road trip when, in a Round 3 game up in Letterkenny, they edged out Donegal by 2-8 to 2-7.

Tiring, perhaps, of those close shaves, Galway went out the next day and demolished Tyrone. That 2-25 to 0-12 defeat they inflicted on the Red Hands was the worst one suffered by Mickey Harte in his long tenure with them.

Meath battled hard against Galway – as the Royals did against everyone they played in this campaign – but the visitors won the game at Navan by two points, 1-14 to 1-12. That win saw Galway sitting pretty at the top of the Division One table, with the chance to relegate us as we prepared to meet in Round 6 on Patrick’s weekend.

That meeting didn’t, of course, happen until a few weeks ago and, when it did, it turned out differently to how any of us might have imagined it would. We beat them out the gate in Tuam, winning pulling up on a scoreline of 3-23 to 0-17.

Galway went on to lose their Round 7 match the following weekend as well. This was another home game, this time in Pearse Stadium, where they went under by two clear goals to Dublin who came away with a 2-15 to 0-15 victory.

Those two defeats cost Galway their shot at a League title. Instead they finished in third spot on eight points.

Sligo should have been their next opponents but that Connacht semi-final meeting never happened. Covid was once more the culprit, with the unfortunate Yeats County having to withdraw from the fixture due to an outbreak in their ranks.

This means that Galway’s first game in this year’s Championship will be Sunday’s Connacht decider. It’s not a unique occurrence – our opening match in 1950 was also the provincial final – but it is unprecedented in the modern era. But then again we are living in unprecedented pandemic times.

Playing Championship football at this time of year feels so strange and alien but it’s best to place this match in its proper context, as the latest chapter in a storied rivalry between the two counties. Sunday’s final is a significant one too in terms of Connacht titles won, as we go into it holding 46 provincial crowns each.

A win the next day would enable one of us to edge ahead in that particular battle, at least for a short while. Long may the rivalry live on.

So, then, who do you think will have their paws on the Nestor Cup on Sunday? Let’s finish with a vote on that.

Will we beat Galway on Sunday?

  • Yes (77%, 662 Votes)
  • No (23%, 200 Votes)

Total Voters: 862

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31 thoughts on “Thinking of the Tribesmen

  1. Willie joe, few very interesting points from your round up of some of those league games.
    Galway beat Meath by 2 points
    They beat Donegal by 1 point.
    Mayo beat Meath by 1 point in Navan early in February.
    I believe the match on Sunday will be a very tight affair.

  2. Mayo are playing with great spirit at the moment. Tbh, Galway got a rude awakening the last few games, and one felt Dublin were always playing well within themselves.

    The requirement for strong athleticism right through the team has never been so stark. PJ and Divo know this, and will no doubt, introduce new blood for Sun. What has impressed me most about Mayo recently is, as a collective, they now go out to impose their game on the opposition, and continue in the same fashion to the final whistle.

    While a glaring problem for Galway is goalkeeper, in contrast, Clarke has become more comfortable on restarts – this too could have a bearing on how the game unfolds.

    So, let’s look forward to lounging on the couch, newspaper, pot of tea, brown soda bread, and homemade blackcurrant jam at the ready – and may the best team win..

  3. Galway Intended to beat us in the league make no mistake. They were still in a position to win their league before our match with them combined with the opportunity to relegate the old enemy. No way Joyce would have risked Comer otherwise.

    However they will be highly motivated to make amends as some lads will be on last chance saloon for them if they get another spanking. They will tear into us from the start and we need to maintain our discipline – hit them hard but fair- and keep focusing on our process, next ball. Hammer some of their hammers and we should win

  4. Think they will be still smarting from the league game. I would assume they will want to `get the retaliation in first`. So I fully expect a backlash. There is too much talk about Damien Comer. It`s the man who replaces him we need to worry about !

  5. I think Galway’s pre-COVID league form has been greatly overhyped. As described above very lucky in a few games to get the win. Could have as easily been fighting relegation as finishing 3rd.
    Media made way too much of the Tyrone game in Tuam, Tyrone played most of that game with 13 men and had to deal with the trauma of their best player (McShane) picking up a horrific injury.
    For all the talk about Joyce’s new brand of football and based on their last 2 league games, I don’t think they’ve progressed much and reverted back to type.
    I’d be surprised if we don’t win this by 5+

  6. Thinking of the Tribesmen indeed .
    Cant think of anything else . IF we get over Galway , there is a semi final waiting that any top team would gladly take .
    I have a giddiness and nervousness about Sunday that I’d normally have the week before an All Ireland !!.
    I believe we will need to be at our very best to beat Galway.
    I sometimes try and think if I was opposition manager what would I do .
    PJ will not need to motivate his players for a Connaught final V Mayo.
    Will he place Paul Conroy at 14 and fire in high balls or at 11 and target our midfield and go long for most knockouts as we will press up on their knockouts. I would start Aiden at 11 to bring a physical presence out there and Carr at 14 . Our backs will be kept busy with a talented Galway forward line but still should plough forward when they can. I’d put Paddy on Shane Walsh who is a serious threat to any team .
    IF we have a foothold in midfield , we should just about win . Discipline will be huge for us . We need to finish with 15 players so a good ref is key . Roll on Sunday

  7. In my view, which im entitled to, I think this game is completely set up for a Galway win. A few months ago, they were the best team in the Country, and would have walloped us after Kerry, only for the lock down. Far too much is being made of that league win a few weeks ago. People can point to Limerick last year, but I feel Kevin Walsh had lost the dressing room at that point, and Galway seemed disjointed and slightly uninterested.

    Galway have some how managed to dampen all the early season hype, I think not playing a championship game to date has helped with that. Our midfield is a massive weakness, Galway will press our kickouts and force Clarke long, are we gunna play Aido in the middle? Galway have far more height and natural fielders aroubd the middle. If they get aa much possesion there as Roscommon did, we’re in for a long day.

    I see Galway starting like animals, hunting in packs and getting in the face of key players, any1 remember Aido been dragged along the ground in Salthill in a league game? Expect lots more of that. Paul Conroy is the real danger man imo, he is in unreal form, and always raises his game against us! I dont know who we have to match him physically? Maybe Stephen Coen? All in all, im fully expecting a Galway win by 3-5 points. Its just too set up for then in every way.

  8. Can anyone tell me if Galway got a bye into the Connacht final of 1966 on their way to the Three-in-a Row All-Irelands? I think they won it with only three matches.

  9. Lads, lay off the critiques of Mark Moran’s off-field activities. He’s a young lad and he doesn’t need us clucking at him here like a bunch of ould wans.

  10. Thinking about Joyce, thinking about us. If he has the stomach, he might look at that league game again and say:

    hey you know we scored 17 points in that game, and we scored 11 in that first-half nightmare. We waltzed through them at the back and if we can get ball, and why can’t we, to Finnerty and Conroy we could make hay. These lads had the beating of their men all day and if we tighten up at the back, that’ll let some more forwards get chances, and if Shane Walsh isn’t fully fit, at least he can hit over frees which Mayo will concede aplenty. And they concede a lot towards the end.

  11. This has ‘banana skin’ written all over it for Mayo
    Clarke has had it his own way on his kickouts – expect massive pressure on Sun
    MF – Roscommon for whatever reason did not bring that intensity – Galway will and MF will be a war zone
    If Galway can score 17 points against us with a shell of team they can certainly up that on Sunday
    Almost guaranteed that there will be a sending off, injury or at least a dodgy penalty to deal with in Mayo vs Galway
    Of course Mayo can win, but it’s absolute 50/50 call

  12. Agree with mike & .mayodunphy, setup totally for nothing other than a Galway win.
    The tiredness factor just cannot be ignored.
    Don”t care how fit mayo players think they are. Galway are just as fit and will do damage.

    Feels like it could turn out like the Dublin game last year – Mayo running out of energy and then suddenly finding they are a few goals behind.
    Major worry is AOS. 5 games on the trot. I recall him fielding a brillant high ball on the 20 meter line last sunday. What did he next do – spring left or right or plough throu’ what was in front? No. He just stood there and ROS players easily took the ball off him. Clearly, he couldn’t get his legs to move. Too knackered.

  13. Hi guys, I have to say I’m really excited about the game on Sunday. It’s probably the year that’s in it that is making me like this. It’s a real genuine solid game of Gaelic football between two rivals and it’s the Connacht Championship. It feels a bit like being able to eat chocolate after waiting over a long Lent : )

    Now for the game – I feel we should really be aiming for a win here. We should be 100% in the business of it, fully focussed. It’s the most meaningful game we’ve had this year to date, and why would we not be targeting this one?

    I agree with a contributor to an earlier thread – some of our lads might be seeing this as a final year playing with Mayo. Surely we should be having a serious go to progress as far as possible in the Championship for their sakes at least?

    However, I think Galway pose a considerable threat and we need to fully realise that. Shane Walsh was not on the field the last day and we know what damage he can do. We also know Galway forwards can score.

    I think we can win this game but we need to be focussed, to be reaching a sort of peak, and we need to have strategies to switch style of play if Galway undermine us – which I can see happening.

    We cannot be complacent about our strengths because Galway can very well press our kickouts, and this can totally upend us and put us into a tailspin. I don’t want to see us chasing the game from the first half – not a good plan. Our midfield has appeared as a weak point (poor return from kickouts, ours or opponents). These are real weak points that Galway can exploit if we are not fully prepared.

    Another point in our favour is actually that it’s knockout – we do seem to turn up at our best when there is no safety net. I’m keeping fingers and toes crossed. It would be brilliant to advance. Hope James Carr is on form ; )

  14. I’m hoping the ref Sean Hurson will be more alert to the pulling and dragging than he was when we played Kerry in Fitzgerald stadium in the super 8’s. Coen was dragged like a rag doll off the ball and didn’t get a sniff of a free. I hope Galway get punished for off the ball.

  15. Agree with mayodunphy too. Galway were stuck to the ground in that recent league loss to Mayo, for a reason. They were very likely in the middle of savage training and couldn’t move like Mayo could. I am not a trainer so don’t know for sure but Galway could be bouncing off the ground if the heavy training was ended in time. This Mayo one may be the game they were getting ready for so remember that when thinking semifinal thoughts. Galway are more than capable of beating Mayo well this Sunday.And don’t forget that some of our older lads will be playing the fifth game in five weeks, a certain amount of fatigue involved after that amount of games and aos got a right clatter on the shin last Sunday. Small things but they all add up.

  16. Good points there about the ref.

    I often feel we play refs naively. We should know what they are fussy about and play to that. For example some are, and I think Hurson is one, fussy about mouthing. Well then just don’t. I often scream at the team – Jesus he’s shit hot on mouthing, can ye guys not see that? Conversely, I feel opposition have their homework done and know what they can and can’t get away with.

    Looking for frees after we have run into tackles is another one.

    We had Hurson for the Meath game. That was played in a hurricane, so at least we have had some practice for Salthill!

  17. Hurson is the worst ref out there, bar none. Make no mistake about this, this game is way above his level. He is as fit as a fiddle, nails all the ref fitness tests, has kissed plenty of ass on his way up the ladder and is much loved in Croke Park. But he is a terrible ref and is the wrong man to take charge of this game given the rivalry, the likely conditions and the history between the two teams. He balked calling the black card on Small when he tripped Andy Moran as Andy went through on goal in 2016. He actually hung Deegan out to dry on that day because Deegan was calling a black and deferred to Hurson who was much closer on the line to the incident. Once Deegan saw the event himself afterwards he went spare at Hurson.
    Then we get to the eye-gouge on Higgins in the Connaught game in MacHale Park a few years ago. Hurson was on the line that day, stand side, about 25 m from the incident and never called it. He is a shite ref. End of.
    He will have an input on Sunday and it won’t be good.

  18. Now, the best teams play the ref as well as the opponent so I would imagine that Mayo will be fully aware of how Hurson is likely to ref the game. The best thing for us to do is to move the ball at speed and avoid bringing it into contact. Anytime we bring the ball into contact we get turned over (e.g. Ruane twice v Tyrone, Barrett v Roscommon, Ruane again v Leitrim) so if we move the ball at pace we should be fine.
    Anyone who thinks that Galway will be better prepared physically because of having no games for a couple of weeks does not understand S&C or the benefit to playing over training. Nothing replicates knockout games. A v B, challenge, in-house, behind-closed-doors games etc all fail to copy the intensity and pre-match nerves of a winner takes all, knockout game where the loser goes home. Mayo have, in effect, had four such games because we knew that the Galway league game was a must win to give us any chance of staying in division 1. Likewise the Tyrone game where, despite the result, we did a lot of good stuff too. Leitrim were obviously underdogs but regardless that game had to be won in difficult conditions against an opponent who never gave up. Roscommon was another step-up in the risk factor even if they were surprisingly subdued. My point is that replicating team shape, skills, decision making and structure in dead rubber games where there are no real pre-match nerves, is not the same as doing it under pressure, at pace, in a winner takes all game where everyone has expectations of a win.
    By the sheer fact of live game time, Mayo should be sharper than Galway and any possible breakdown in communication between our seasoned players and the newbies should be well worked out of the system by now. I expect Mayo to have 3 changes to the team that lined out in Tuam with Galway making up to 6 changes and I expect the physical stakes to be much higher than in the Hyde. That’s as it should be, there are medals on the line. Galway are not going to hand us anything, but neither are we to them and we have plenty to bring to this battle too.
    I expect a 3 to 4 point win.

  19. Evening all. The excitement is building. I am looking forward to the press pieces tomorrow.

    I have huge faith in JH and the boys. If they bring the same level of intensity that they did last Sunday I can only see one outcome, a Mayo win. The game will ebb and flow, of course, particularly if a strong wind is blowing but I expect Mayo to win by 2-3 points.

    I do not agree with previous posts that this final is set up for Galway. They watched Mayo dispatch Roscommon with ease last weekend and their second guessing of themselves ramped up a notch. They will not have their best team, they are under cooked and they simply do not have the same quality at their disposal from 1-15. I am not one to be over confident and I rarely post on the blog albeit I read it regularly. I just felt this thread needed a little positivity.

    Hon Mayo!

  20. Great stuff there Pebbles on Hurson. But, my point is this:

    Good, bad, or indifferent, we’ve got to play him and play him taking into account the conditions. We’ve got to know what he will let go and what he won’t. Dublin are brilliant at that. I would love to have fly-on-the-wall accounts of Dublin electoral discussions of refs. Now that would be an explosive publication. The Christy Ring centenary publication highlighted a league game in which Cork lost when an opponent goaled after walking the ball through. In the All Ireland final of that year, with the same ref, Ring, then a selector, told Ray Cummins to keep going if he was near goal and take his chances. He did, he goaled and Cork won.

  21. Funny how things go, cast your mind back to February it would have been almost unthinkable to imagine anything other than a routine enough win for Galway in Connacht.

    Has enough really changed in the meantime? Is a league match and win against – in truth – an extremely sub-par Roscommon enough to change the narrative?

    We’ll find out sunday!

    I fear though that Mayo’s best showings in recent times have actually come when written off. They’re certainly not the side being written off Sunday though!

  22. Nothing beats playing games to have match sharpness. Galway haven’t played in 3 weeks now I think and a the training in the world won’t get rid of the rustiness. Mayo will be at full tilt because they know if they win they have a semi final against Tipp or Cork and also know that they will have a 3 week break to recover for a potential semi final. Galway will be much better than they were in the league game but injuries have taken their toll on their squad. It will be a battle but I expect Mayo to sneak it by 2/3 points. If Mayo keep Galway goalless then they will win. Conditions will also play a massive factor. Good weather will suit mayo like it was against Roscommon. If it’s wet and windy then we could be looking at a low scoring game. Not as bad as CorkvKerry but under 30 points.

  23. Just nipped out to the shop..On the way passed Mc Hale pk under flood lights and the Mayo team doing drills..On the way back spotted first Christmas tree up.in someone’s house..Mad times!

  24. Mayo are hot favourites with all the pundits with people already talking about Covid being Mayos year. I want to come back to how poor Roscommon were the last day , slow and ponderous not the snappy attacking team that won last years title. I wonder if Mayo have taken too much out of that win but I suppose we will see where Galways fitness is on Sunday they are well rested not like poor AOS crouched over gasping for breath against the Rossies but he will need to go 75 again in midfield on Sunday. Games are grand in the height of summer but 4-5 weeks in a row on energy sapping boggy pitches at some stage the legs get wobbly. If Mayos legs get there on Sunday the Galway forwards could run riot.

  25. I would not expect many, if any, changes to the starting 15, subs again will be interesting. Amazing the number of good players who are not making match day squad. High fielding in the middle third and not just midfield is a concern.The only midfield player on the bench is Jordan. Our only other option is to bring Aiden out and he may not have the legs for it and would slow down the game when we seem to be stressing speed in attacking.
    . He has played every minute four weekend in a row.
    An indication of our weakness in the middle is we moved both players out of the middle for the throw ins.
    I do not recall ever seeing that before. Big question is can we start and sustain the same energy as against Roscommon.

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