IN military, an advance party is a group of troops deployed ahead to prepare the way for the arrival of the main army. On Sunday at Pearse Stadium, Mayo’s advance party got a bloody nose.
They were sent packing by an uncompromising Galway outfit that has made it three wins from three in their impressive return to the top-flight of the National Football League.
True, Mayo were without heavy artillery and were missing six or seven first-choice regulars but Galway weren’t at full-strength either and looked markedly better than the visitors.
Of course, it’s only February, and come May, when this 2018 ‘war’ between neighbours climaxes in the provincial championship, Mayo will present an altogether more difficult challenge in Castlebar. But for Galway, winning two out of two of the early season skirmishes against the ‘old enemy’ – including last month’s niggly FBD league encounter – while maintaining their 100% league record, gives a welcome shot of confidence for a relatively young, evolving side. It was a clear statement of intent.
Kevin Walsh’s charges certainly have the bottle for a battle; and boy was this a battle. Tense, tight and often tetchy, it wasn’t one for the football purists but incident-filled enough to keep the official attendance of 9,850 entertained at a bitterly cold but sunny Salthill.
St Valentine’s Day may have been on the horizon but 18 cards were dispensed in total, including three reds, and an all-out melee late-on in this feisty encounter proved once again that there is no love lost between the two counties.
As reconnaissance exercises go, both sides learned something about each other – and themselves – ahead of the all-important Connacht Championship clash.
Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune.