NOT quite the epic it was built up to be but the result was the same. Galway’s dominance over Mayo continued at Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar, this afternoon, with extra-time beckoning when a cracking goal from Johnny Heaney settled the argument once and for all.
The result (Galway 1-12, Mayo 0-12) sends Mayo down a long road under a cloud of uncertainty, while Galway look destined for another meeting with Roscommon in the Connaught final, although Leitrim and Sligo will have something to say about that, but the pendulum has now swung firmly in favour of the Tribesmen.
If there some comfort for Mayo from this game it may come from the fact that they played with 14 men for almost 55 minutes following the dismissal of Diarmuid O’Connor on a straight red card after 21 minutes of the first half.
But a cat and mouse game will not be remembered with any great fondness by the crowd of just under 30,000 who paid in on a glorious afternoon.
Unfortunately, the quality of the football did not match the occasion and the huge hype before this game but it was decided by a quality finish from Heaney, and you’d have to say Galway were marginally the better team in a poor game.
The half-time score - 0-7 to 0-6 - in favour of Galway was a fair reflection of the first half with the Tribesmen settling in early and going three points ahead after 20 minutes, Mayo managing just a point in that period and that arrived from a Conor Loftus free in the opening minute.
Loftus performed his freetaking duties well, nailing two from placed balls, and adding a point from play, while Diarmuid O’Connor, Kevin McLoughlin and Andy Moran were also on target for Mayo.
Damien Comer always looked dangerous as he came out deep and picked off two fine points from play, while Barry McHugh (2), Ciarán Duggan and Shane Walsh all got on the scoreboard for Galway.
However, the big talking point of that first half was the dismissal of Diarmuid O’Connor on a straight red after he led with the elbow as he collided with the face of Paul Conroy, the Galway man unable to continue after the collision.
Keith Higgins, who was superb for Mayo, had matters all square soon after the resumption (0-8 apiece) and it was score for score, but Mayo were always playing catch-up and unable to get their noses in front and never created a goal chance.
Cillian O’Connor, who came on in the second half, Tom Parsons, who had to be stretchered off with a knee injury, and Kevin McLoughlin kept Mayo on terms, McLoughlin’s effort putting his side on level terms - 0-11 apiece - just as eight minutes of injury-time were announced.
Mayo never stopped trying but too many mistakes, a few wrong options along with that killer goal means this is the third time Stephen Rochford has watched his side lose to Galway.
Mayo: D. Clarke, E. O’Donoghue, C. Barrett, K. Higgins (0-1), C. Boyle, S. Coen, P. Durcan, T. Parsons (0-1), S. O’Shea, K. McLoughlin (0-2), A. O’Shea, D. O’Connor (0-1), C. Loftus (0-3, 2f), J. Doherty, A. Moran (0-2).
Subs used: C. O’Connor (0-2, 1f ) for Parsons (inj, 43), James Durcan for Doherty, C. Hanley for S. O’Shea, D. Drake for C. Loftus, D. Vaughan for A. Moran.
Galway: R. Lavelle, D. Kyne, S.A. O’Ceallaigh, O. Kerin, G. O’Donnell, G. Bradshaw, C. Sweeney, T. Flynn (0-1), C. Duggan (0-2), S. Walsh (0-3), P. Conroy, J. Heaney (1-0), S. Armstrong (0-1), D. Comer (0-2), B. McHugh (0-2).
Subs used: P. Cooke for Conroy (inj), E. Brannigan for D. Kyne, I. Burke for Armstrong, S. Kelly (0-1) for Flynn, T. Flynn for Cooke (BC), A. Varley for McHugh.
Referee: C. Lane (Cork).