Can the tribesmen undermine Mayo’s dominance of the Connacht Championship and register a Galway victory?
In The Saw Doctors 1992 classic song, ‘The Hay Wrap’, the protagonist asks ‘will Galway bate Mayo?’. A respondent replies negatively, ‘Not if they have Willie Joe [Padden], they haven’t a hope of beatin’ Mayo’. The negative outlook demonstrated in that number one hit, you did read that right, seems to have permeated into the psyche of the Galway footballers of today. After all, many of the successful under 21 players would have been born around the time of the songs release. However as those players who won two under 21 All Ireland Football Championship titles with Galway in 2011 and 2013 begin to establish themselves in the senior team, the tribesmen have an opportunity to begin challenging Mayo.
The task facing Galway is stark. Mayo are gunning for their fifth consecutive Connacht title, they will also be looking to beat Galway in five successive Connacht Championship meetings for the first time since 1909. Therefore both recent and ancient history are counting against the tribesmen. Yet Galway come into this fixture on the back of an expected victory over New York and a good win against Leitrim.
Their League form too was solid. Galway defeated the division two winners, Roscommon, in Dr. Hyde Park and only lost to runners up, Down, by a point in Newry. They can point to home victories over Meath and Kildare and an away win against Westmeath. Letting them down were defeats to Laois and Cavan in Tuam and Salthill respectively. Galway is also home of Club All Ireland winners, Corofin, and the confidence those players will bring to the squad could be contagious. The tribesmen come into this fixture with a point to prove. On Mayo’s previous visit to Salthill, they won comfortably 4-16 to 0-11. Lets not forget either the words of Joe Brolly, who stated that Galway were ‘not a serious team’ last year, those words should be ringing in the ears of the players as they leave the dressing room.
Brolly has since clarified his comments, arguing he was referring to Galway’s mentality and lack of organisation. He certainly has a point regarding the latter, under Alan Mulholland, the tribesmen played a far too open brand of football. They often left themselves exposed in defence and played into the hands of organised sides who counter-attacked at pace. However their strength lies in their attacking intent. Led from midfield by Paul Conroy, Galway possess a number of scoring forwards. Nonetheless, the loss of Shane O’Donnell, who broke his hand in a fatal car accident last weekend, will be felt and it will be up to the likes of Michael Lundy, Danny Cummins and Damien Comer to take on the responsibility.
Counting against Galway is Mayo’s physicality. Led by Keith Higgins and the O’Shea brothers, Aidan and Seamus, Mayo can impose themselves on any opposition. In order to overcome this issue Galway will have to move the ball quickly in order to shift the Mayo defence around the field. Although Mayo’s forwards may not possess the natural scoring ability of their western counterparts, they do work hard and understand their roles within the team. The return of Cillian O’Connor from injury should tip the balance in Mayo’s favour. O’Connor gives Mayo a threat that they otherwise do not possess. In the context of where these teams are in their development, it is more important for Mayo to win. Under new management, it is imperative that they do so, if they are to launch another serious bid to win the All Ireland.
Then again the Saw Doctors also had a song titled ‘To Win Just Once’…