Connacht SFC Final: Mayo triumph at Croke Park
Connacht Senior Football Championship Final
MAYO 2-14 GALWAY 2-8
Every Mayo win over Galway is celebrated furiously, but this was an especially sweet Connacht SFC Final success at Croke Park.
Trailing by five points at the turnaround and seemingly in all sorts of bother, Mayo remained cool under duress to annihilate Galway after the restart.
Galway could only muster three Matthew Tierney pointed frees in the second period as Mayo governed that part of the game.
It was chiefly due to the brilliance of Mattie Ruane, who was outstanding for the green and red. Ruane was fouled by Tierney for the match altering penalty which Ryan O'Donoghue converted expertly immediately after half-time.
Ruane then nailed the insurance goal in the 67th minute to seal a stirring Mayo comeback as Galway struggled to contain James Horan's vibrant team.
Prompted by the drive and desire of Paul Conroy, Galway dictated the agenda for much of the first half.
The St James' clubman stormed into the match and was a significant influence enabling the Galway attack to provide glimpses of real craft in attack.
Shane Walsh plundered one goal before creating another major for Damien Comer, who was performing with trademark determination.
Comer, plagued by injuries in recent years, illustrated his considerable value to the Galway cause as Padraic Joyce's outfit departed at the break armed with a 2-5 to 0-6 advantage.
Initially Mayo settled smartly accumulating a 0-4 to 0-2 lead by the 11th minute, but then Galway responded in impressive fashion.
Before the water break Conroy contributed a point and when the action recommenced Galway pounced for a goal that owed much to Walsh's opportunism.
Conroy's 19th minute shot struck the post and Walsh reacted to gather possession prior to unleashing a thunderbolt which made the Mayo net dance.
A second goal was planted on 28 when Walsh scorched clear to release Comer, who supplied another crisp finish. Suddenly Galway were five clear and Mayo had to summon answers.
By the time the interval rolled around Galway were 2-5 to 0-6 as an interesting provincial decider unfolded at GAA headquarters.
Aidan O'Shea's pass put Ruane away early in the third quarter with Mayo awarded a penalty following a foul on the Breaffy clubman. O'Donoghue supplied the grace note and Mayo's challenge was injected with hope.
Six further Mayo points on the spin were added with Tommy Conroy, splendid substitute Kevin McLoughlin, and the prominent Conor Loftus amongst the scorers.
Mayo assumed a 1-12 to 2-5 cushion with Galway terminating a 27 minute search for a second half score when Tierney landed a free.
Tierney brought Galway to within two when clipping another free, but Mayo were unperturbed. Inevitably Ruane raced through to blast a goal to seal the deal meaning the Nestor Cup was retained by Mayo.
Galway substitute Michael Farragher was sent off in the closing stages as Mayo prevailed.
Horan's charges will enter the All Ireland series heartened.
Scorers for Mayo: Ryan O'Donoghue 1-3 (1-0 pen, 2fs), Mattie Ruane 1-2, Tommy Conroy and Conor Loftus 0-2 each, Kevin McLoughlin, James Carr, Paddy Durcan, Darren McHale and Robert Hennelly (45) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: Shane Walsh 1-1, Matthew Tierney 0-4 (3fs), Damien Comer 1-0, Paul Conroy 0-2, Cathal Sweeney 0-1.
MAYO: Robert Hennelly; Lee Keegan, Padraig O'Hora, Michael Plunkett; Paddy Durcan, Oisín Mullin, Stephen Coen; Mattie Ruane, Conor Loftus; Bryan Walsh, Aidan O'Shea, Diarmuid O'Connor; Tommy Conroy, Darren McHale, Ryan O'Donoghue.
Subs: Eoghan McLaughlin for McHale (HT), Kevin McLoughlin for Walsh (HT), Jordan Flynn for Loftus (45-51), Rory Brickenden for O'Hora (57), James Carr for A O'Shea (68), Conor O'Shea for O'Connor (70+5)
GALWAY: Connor Gleeson; Seán Kelly, Seán Ó Maolchiaráin, Liam Silke; Kieran Molloy, Dylan McHugh, Johnny Heaney; Paul Conroy, Matthew Tierney; Damien Comer, Peter Cooke, Cathal Sweeney; Rob Finnerty, Shane Walsh, Paul Kelly.
Subs: Finnian Ó Laoi for Finnerty (17), Jack Glynn for S Kelly (26), Michael Farragher for Sweeney (51), Eamonn Brannigan for P Kelly (56), Johnny Duane for Walsh (70+2).
REFEREE: Conor Lane (Cork).