Mature, well-tested Mayo possess the resources to triumph
Familiar. Yes, that’s the word. Familiar foes, familiar venue, familiar occasion.
The Nestor Cup, itself a familiar trophy, is ready to reside with the winners of next Sunday’s Connaught SFC final.
Yet, strange as it may seem, these teams have not faced each other in a final since 2009 and, surprisingly, it is Galway’s first appearance since that date in the decider.
The advantage of being the home team and the one more accustomed to big occasions, I believe, should benefit Mayo on Sunday.
The added incentive of annexing a four–in-a-row of provincial wins, last achieved in 1951, will also act as further motivation.
And yet an undercurrent of unease bothers some supporters who correctly point to a less-than-impressive performance in the semi-final win over Roscommon.
That staleness and lack of sharpness evident in the league defeat to Derry lingered into the Hyde Park encounter and it required an Andy Moran-inspired last quarter to eventually tilt the result in Mayo’s direction.
Doubts about selection and personnel resurfaced. Fingers were pointed, unfairly in my opinion, at a half forward line that was, after all, playing together for the first time in competitive fare.
To a man they were replaced during the game but to burden them with blame and absolve others is wrong as an overall general lethargy prevailed.
Sunday affords the team an opportunity to move up a gear and remind itself of the quality that dwells within.
In terms of experience, Mayo enjoy an overwhelming advantage. Defending champions, long term residents in division one of the league, replete with players who have proved themselves on endless occasions in the province, they should carry enough into the tie to beat a Galway team whose survival in division two of the league was secured on points difference.
There was sufficient evidence against Roscommon that the defence is rediscovering its miserly streak and the fact that the Roscommon starting forwards only managed two scores from play confirms this.
Admittedly, substitute Diarmuid Murtagh, in his brief cameo, caused problems but the restored solidness at the back was reassuring.
The return of Keith Higgins to his old stomping ground in the corner also helped.
On Sunday the O’Shea brothers will prowl the central area and it will surprise if a role is not found for Jason Gibbons at some stage, provided his fitness is up to par.
In Markievicz Park both Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Tomas Flynn supplied the Galway attack with a liberal amount of ball but the formidable presence and physical conditioning of the O’Sheas will reduce their effectiveness.
Most of Galway’s attacking threat is posed by Shane Walsh.
His uninhibited spirit can cause any defence problems and, apart from his scoring prowess, he is capable of drawing match-winning performances from others.
Colm Boyle is well able to negate this threat and, in doing so, can point Mayo towards victory.
Paul Conroy, were he to play, would carry menace but, even with him, I cannot see their attack mustering a match-winning score.
This is a mature and well tested Mayo outfit. I expect them to win by a reasonable margin on Sunday.
What we all want to see is that win franked by a swagger, freshness and style that will fortify us for later battles.