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silver lining Mayo survive by the skin of their teeth to see off Galway in Connacht decider

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Aidan O'Shea of Mayo celebrates following the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final

Aidan O'Shea of Mayo celebrates following the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final

SPORTSFILE

Aidan O'Shea of Mayo celebrates following the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final

Mayo 0-14 Galway 0-13

NEVER mind the quality, feel the Nestor Cup. Mayo have endured a mountain of provincial pain since completing the Connacht five-in-a-row in 2015, so they were going to worry too deeply so long as they managed to complete the mission in Pearse Stadium.

And that’s exactly what they achieved, by the bare minimum, after a torrid arm wrestle with arch-rivals Galway.

When a swift Mayo counter initiated by Eoghan McLaughlin’s turnover concluded with sub Bryan Walsh fisting his second point, the visitors led by three points with 67 minutes on the clock.

A big gap in the context of this fiercely contested battle, but still time enough for Galway to launch one final salvo.

And so they did, with veteran Paul Conroy nailing his third point from play of the second half before Shane Walsh, inspirational at times during that second half, missed two nerve-testing frees from the right touchline.

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ohnny Duane of Galway leaves the pitch with an injury

ohnny Duane of Galway leaves the pitch with an injury

SPORTSFILE

ohnny Duane of Galway leaves the pitch with an injury

But Galway were now dominating David Clarke’s kickout and another ‘steal’ culminated in a foul on Seán Kelly as he bore down on goal. The Galway No 2 definitely landed inside the parallelogram, Galway were insistent it should have been a penalty – but the key arbiter, referee Seán Hurson deemed the foul to be just outside.

Walsh tapped over for his seventh point, with the game now 30 seconds beyond the signalled four extra minutes. There was still time for Galway to win the next line ball, but they failed to work an opportunity and the final whistle sounded soon after. Mayo had survived – just – and they now advance to an All-Ireland semi-final against the Munster champions, either Cork or Tipperary, early next month.

Galway had become increasingly annoyed over Hurson’s officiating during that second half, and manager Pádraic Joyce had words with the referee after the final whistle. But to no avail: their season is over.

This was no classic – no surprise there given the timing or the famously wind-lashed venue. Nor was it a lopsided repeat of Tuam last month – again, no surprise.

James Horan’s pre-match favourites played with the elements to begin with, and Galway massed their defensive ranks in a clear attempt to avoid any of the early -bcarnage suffered in that league calamity.

And, with No 3 Seán Mulkerrin sweeping in front of his full-back line and Galway’s seven defenders frequently bolstered by nominal attackers, the hosts increasingly succeeded in frustrating Mayo as the first half developed.

To begin with, mind you, Mayo made some impressive inroads. After Dessie Conneely had marked his SFC debut with Galway’s opening point after just a minute, Mayo started to turn the screw. Tommy Conroy sniped a point off either foot while the O’Connor brothers, Cillian and Diarmuid, all found the target before Paddy Durcan took time out from his primary brief shadowing Shane Walsh to land one of his now-trademark points on the run.

Thus, after 15 minutes, the visitors led by 0-5 to 0-1.

But then, either side of the water break, the game became increasingly fractured – not helped by a lengthy injury hold-up before Galway centre-back Johnny Duane departed on a motorised stretcher.

Mayo scores dried to a trickle, with Ryan O’Donoghue’s mark and Mattie Ruane’s fisted effort making it 0-7 to 0-2 after 32 minutes.

However, with Walsh increasingly to the fore, Galway landed three of the last points of the half to leave them 0-8 to 0-5 adrift at the break – a scenario that is sure to have satisfied Joyce, even more so after Gary O’Donnell reduced the deficit further within 30 seconds of the restart.

But Mayo then came with a flourish early in that third quarter and looked to have asserted control before Walsh and Conroy dragged this game back into the melting pot.

Scorers: Mayo: C O’Connor 0-4 (3f), T Conroy 0-3, M Ruane, B Walsh 0-2 each, D O’Connor, P Durcan, R O’Donoghue 0-1 each. Galway: S Walsh 0-7 (4f), P Conroy 0-3, D Conneely, P Kelly, G O’Donnell 0-1 each.

TEAMS - MAYO – D Clarke; P Durcan, C Barrett, O Mullin; S Coen, L Keegan, E McLaughlin; C Loftus, M Ruane; K McLoughlin, R O’Donoghue, D O’Connor; T Conroy, A O’Shea, C O’Connor. Subs: B Walsh for O’Donoghue (ht), J Flynn for Loftus (58), M Moran for Conroy (61), K Higgins for K McLoughlin (64), F McDonagh for Ruane (72).

GALWAY – B Power; L Silke, S Kelly, C McDaid; G O’Donnell, J Duane, J Heaney; C D’Arcy, M Daly; P Kelly, P Conroy, S Mulkerrin; I Burke, D Conneely, S Walsh. Subs: R Steede for D’Arcy (24), G Bradshaw for Duane (inj 28), K Molloy for O’Donnell (45), D Comer for Burke (50), G Sice for P Kelly (64).

REFEREE – S Hurson (Tyrone)

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