Gleeson the hero as ‘keeper hits sensational final winner

Galway 0-16

Mayo 0-15

Pádraic Ó Ciardha at Pearse Stadium

IN the five years of Pádraic Joyce’s reign as Galway manager to date, there won’t have been a win as sweet as this. There have been bigger games and more complete performances but in terms of pure emotion and satisfaction, Sunday’s victory against Mayo is unmatched.

Connor Gleeson was the hero for the Tribesmen as his 76th minute free saw Galway complete a brilliant late turnaround to claim a third successive Connacht title and remind everyone of the potential that is in this team.

When Tommy Conroy cut through to put Mayo two points clear heading into added-time, it looked as if the visitors had done enough to leave Pearse Stadium with the Nestor Cup in tow. Neither team had been great, playing well only in patches, but it was the kind of game that Mayo have just seemed to win against Galway over the last couple of years. That suddenly changed when Galway produced a five-minute spell that will hopefully turbocharge their season.

Galway played with an intensity unlike anything they’ve produced in the last couple of years as they attacked at pace, squeezed their opponents and forced turnovers. To put it simply, they out-Mayo-ed Mayo. As painful as it can be to admit at times, there are few higher compliments than that.

The impact of the bench was a massive factor in Galway turning things around. John Maher, Daniel O’Flaherty, Shane Walsh and Matthew Tierney all played vital roles in the final three scores and having spent so long during the spring wondering what might be possible with a full deck to choose from, we finally got a taste here.

After his vital cameo appearance in Sligo, Damien Comer was once again unmarkable, giving David McBrien the runaround all day while Rob Finnerty also continued his fine form, finishing with eight points. The fullback line of Johnny McGrath, Seán Fitzgerald and Jack Glynn were excellent at the other end of the pitch, as was Paul Conroy, while the energy brought by the subs also seemed to lift the likes of Seán Kelly and Dylan McHugh.

More than Joyce or Comer or anyone else, however, Sunday was Connor Gleeson’s day. The Dunmore MacHales man has come in for a lot of criticism during his time between the posts, some fair and plenty not so fair, but even his biggest detractors could surely only have stood up and applauded him at the weekend.

Pictured: Galway’s Robert Finnerty breaking past Mayo’s Rory Brickenden during Sunday’s Connacht Senior Football Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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