Paddy Durcan of Mayo in action against Matthew Tierney of Galway in the 2021 Connacht SFC final in Croke Park. Mayo have good memories of playing Galway in finals at HQ. Will that trend continue this weekend? PHOTO: SPORTSFILE

All roads to Croker for Mayo and Galway league final


AS the minutes in added time ticked away in Castlebar and it looked like Monaghan were going to end the Kevin McStay’s unbeaten streak as manager, attention turned elsewhere.

Well before this, heads in the press box and around the ground were turned as news filtered through that a certain Stephen Cluxton was back in the Dublin squad.

I was more amazed that Cluxton’s return and that he had been training with the team the last couple of weeks had been kept under wraps. Their final with Derry just got a lot more intriguing, as well as the All-Ireland championships.

But that’s down the road. Immediate attention – and the only attention for Mayo – should be the Division 1 final against Galway in Croke Park next Sunday and, on the surface of things, Mayo are expected to go in as favourites.

Up until Sunday, they were the only side unbeaten in the league and McStay and his backroom team have assembled a squad with options and playing a lovely style of football.

While Mayo’s last two games against Galway saw defeat in last year Connaught championship and Ryan O’Donoghue’s last-gasp kick rescue a draw, their last two meetings in finals at Croke Park went Mayo’s way.

Paraic Joyce was there as a player in the 2001 league final defeat as a manager 20 years later when Galway fell apart in the second half of the Connaught final.

A win for last year’s All-Ireland finalists would be another big step in the right direction for the Tribesmen and a major psychological advantage on what is looking a fiercely competitive Connaught championship between Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

For Mayo, it is a chance to regain lost momentum. With the game effectively a dead rubber, McStay rang the changes. Eight of the ten changes were starting their first game for Mayo and it showed through the lack of composure up front and loose defending at the back.

There were positives. Bob Tuohy, Sam Callinan and Paul Towey impressed and the effort from all was there but too often poor decisions, bad shooting and overplaying the lateral handpass came back to bite Mayo.

That is to take nothing away from Monaghan. They needed the win – and a favour from Omagh in the Tyrone v Armagh game – and they got both. Jack McCarron, Darren Hughes and Ryan O’Toole were excellent but none more so than the evergreen Conor McManus as he rolled back the years with a top-class display to keep the Farney men in Division 1.

The changes will be rung again for Mayo and I expect to see as close to their strongest 15 as possible for the final. Some positions are hard to call and that is down to the great depth that Mayo now have at their disposal.

It will be tight, but Mayo should get over the line.


THE Westaro Masters League season concluded last week with a thrilling game between Ballyglass and Iorras Aontaithe in Solar 21 Park but it was not the only thing that came to an end.

For so many years, the statistics of a match in the Mayo Football League – players starting, goalscorers, yellow and red cards, substitutions any other relevant information – were written down on the match card.

Last Wednesday is likely to be the last time you will see them in the Mayo Football League or Mayo Women’s League as all statistics are now on the FAI Connect app, which is a brilliant addition as far as this scribe is concerned.

Team are uploaded by management onto the app 30 minutes before kick-off and you can get real-time updates of games from around the country, including players stats, head to head records and upcoming fixtures.

For volunteers and administrators, it makes life a lot easier. For referees and managers, it also means reporters won’t be pestering you looking for starting lineups. A win-win for all!