SOME of the bare facts from Saturday evening’s hard-hitting All-Ireland football fourth round qualifier were so loaded against Galway that they would have needed a miracle to be still heading to the Super 8s.
The concession of two goals in a nightmare start; the failure of any of their starting forwards to score from play until the 47th minute; spurning a penalty chance when just building up a head of steam; and finishing with 12 players on the field illustrates just how difficult Galway made life for themselves.
Against that background, it was a tribute to Galway’s tenacity and spirit that they had Mayo seriously rattled if not quite on the ropes during a rousing final quarter. The men in maroon had been accused of having a soft centre after their second-half collapse against Roscommon, but there was no place for a similar post-match narrative here.
At least, Galway’s players restored some pride at the Gaelic Grounds before a crowd of over 19,000. With brittle belief levels heading into the fixture, they could have folded their tents after conceding a brace of goals inside eight minutes to young James Carr – the first a gift, the second a brilliant individual effort – but the Tribesmen were in no mood to surrender despite falling eight-points behind to Mayo on a couple of occasions.
Though Galway still had big numbers behind the ball, they weren’t nearly as slavish to that system as in the Connacht final. Having to chase the game forced them to come out of their shell and they offered glimpses of potential for next year and beyond.
Mind you, that will be of little consolation to the Galway camp this week. In truth, it has been a regressive season – failing to retain the provincial title and bowing out before the business-end of the championship – and it remains to be seen if they will have a new manager on the sideline in 2020.
That was Kevin Walsh’s fifth season in charge and, until this year, it felt that the team was slowly but surely heading in the right direction. Though injuries to key players were a significant hindrance, the Galway squad appeared fed up of a tactical approach which curbed some natural flair and undermined the potency of the attack.
Too much emphasis was placed on stopping the opposition from scoring and while Walsh maybe had good reason to shore things up at the back, Galway had become too negative, too pragmatic. Supporters were switched off and affection for the team from the terraces dwindled.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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