We have Andy Moran and Finian Hanley previewing the 2020 Connacht Football Final between Mayo and Galway.
They meet for an eighth successive year in the championship. The first six were in the Connacht championship, with Mayo winning in 2013-14-15 and Galway winning in 2016-17-18. They met in the All-Ireland qualifiers last year when Mayo won. This will be their first clash in the Connacht final since 2014 when Mayo won by seven points.
Look back at previous finals
1. David Clarke – Ballina Stephenites
2. Oisín Mullin – Kilmaine
3. Chris Barrett – Clontarf
4. Lee Keegan – Westport
5. Patrick Durcan – Castlebar Mitchels
6. Stephen Coen – Hollymount/Carramore
7. Eoghan McLaughlin – Westport
8. Conor Loftus – Crossmolina Deel Rovers
9. Matthew Ruane – Breaffy
10. Kevin McLoughlin – Knockmore
11. Mark Moran – Westport
12. Diarmuid O’Connor – Ballintubber
13. Tommy Conroy – The Neale
14. Aidan O’Shea – Breaffy (C)
15. Cillian O’Connor – Ballintubber
Galway – TBC
Since then, the 2016 and ’17 All-Ireland runners-up have beaten Leitrim and Roscommon in the Championship to eclipse a league relegation. On the other hand, Sligo’s concession of last weekend’s game against the Galwegians means Joyce’s team enter this game without any Championship minutes under their belts.
This is Mayo’s first visit to a Connacht final since they completed five-in-a-row in 2015. In the seasons between now and then, Roscommon and Galway have always trumped them in Connacht. But, their form to date makes them hot favourites to end that drought.
Mayo Finding Their Stride
James Horan unearthed a few gems in this fixture a few weeks ago. Tommy Conroy has been ever-present in the full-forward line since that day and has justified his inclusion. Likewise, Eoghan McLoughlin has made one of the wing-back spots his own. At centre-forward, Mark Moran burst onto the stage against Galway. However, he is competing with Ryan O’Donoghue for that jersey. It will be interesting to see if Horan recalls Moran to try and repeat the trick this time around.
Mayo’s youthful injection contrasts to the veterans who Horan also has at his disposal. Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins were both on the bench last weekend and despite not playing they are valuable assets that he can trust. On the field, Cillian O’Connor is reminding everyone why he is the top scorer in GAA Championship history. At the other end, Lee Keegan is seemingly Horan’s most trusted man-marker.
The gap between Mayo’s old and new is being nicely bridged by the likes of Paddy Durcan, Stephen Coen, Matthew Ruane, and Diarmuid O’Connor. These four make up a strong core that Horan can build around.
Mayo’s running game returned to its best against Roscommon. Half-backs Durcan and McLoughlin were the primary source of that. McLoughlin emulates a young Colm Boyle with this pace and power as he drives past defenders. A great example of this was his assist for Diarmuid O’Connor’s goal. Likewise, Durcan’s tunnel vision is a joy to watch as he regularly offers as much going forward as a 13 or a 15. He scored two points against Roscommon while simultaneously muzzling Enda Smith.
Galway Ready to Rock
Joyce would have preferred to have played Sligo last weekend than to have a bye straight to the final no matter how convenient it is. Since the restart, his side have lost to Mayo and Dublin to overshadow excellent form in the spring. A win over Sligo would have been very welcome no matter how close it was.
Now, Galway enter the Championship with a lack of match practice. Furthermore, Damien Comer remains sidelined for the 2018 Connacht Champions. Without having played in three weeks, Joyce has tough decisions to make about how best to deploy his troops.
One piece of good news is that Shane Walsh is available and looking forward to the heat of a Connacht rivalry.
Speaking ahead of the weekend, Walsh apparently relishes this fixture. “It is a massive thing, the Galway-Mayo rivalry. The game always takes on a life of its own”.
Joyce will need Walsh to return to full form straight off the bat with his other top forward absent. Otherwise, selections in the full-back line remain an interesting one. Aidan O’Shea wreaked havoc in Tuam Stadium with Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh unable to tame the Breaffy beast. Sean Mulkerrin could be drafted into the full-back line. The versatile, young defender could be assigned to Conroy or O’Connor, or even O’Shea if Joyce trusts him enough. He featured against Dublin last time out.
While it may be tough to predict the Galway team, it is certain that it will be different to the one Mayo faced a few weeks ago. Joyce’s team will be out to prove that they’re the strongest team in Connacht but the selections the manager makes will be important. Traditionally, Mayo improve as they play more games. For that reason, five games in five weeks may not hinder them. This could clash nicely with Galway’s freshness and hunger for Championship football.
With Kerry now out of Munster, Mayo and Galway know that a win here means a great chance of reaching an All-Ireland final. It’s a shame fans can’t be in attendance as this is shaping up to be one of the best Galway-Mayo games in recent years.
The game is live on RTÉ.
Mayo are slight favourites with Paddy Power at 10/11. Otherwise, Galway at 11/10 and a draw is 15/2.
Prediction: Mayo. The loss of Damien Comer is a huge one for Galway. Either Lee Keegan or Paddy Durcan will be assigned to Walsh and the other Mayo backs should be good enough to silence the Galway front line. The middle third will be a huge battle ground in this game. Galway need to be on top here to stop the Mayo half-backs launching attacks.
LAST FIVE CHAMPIONSHIP CLASHES
2019: Mayo 2-13 Galway 1-13 (Qualifier Round 4)
2018: Galway 1-12 Mayo 0-12 (Connacht quarter-final)
2017: Galway 0-15 Mayo 1-11 (Connacht semi-final)
2016: Galway 1-12 Mayo 0-12 (Connacht semi-final)
2015: Mayo 1-15 Galway 2-8 (Connacht semi-final)
LAST FIVE CONNACHT FINAL CLASHES
2014: Mayo 3-14 Galway 0-16
2009: Mayo 2-12 Galway 1-14
2008: Galway 2-12 Mayo 1-14
2005: Galway 0-10 Mayo 0-8
2006: Mayo 0-12 Galway 1-8
Facts and Figures
(1) James Horan led Mayo to four championship wins over Galway in 2011-13-14-19. Padraic Joyce is in his first season as Galway manager.
(2) Mayo beat Galway by 3-23 to 0-17 in their Allianz League clash in Tuam last month.
(3) Mayo have won two games in the Connacht championship this year, beating Leitrim by 2- 15 to 0-10 and Roscommon by 1-16 to 0-13. Sligo’s withdrawal due to Covid-19 left Galway qualifying for the final without a game.
(4)Mayo are seeking their first Connacht title since 2015 while Galway last won it in 2018.
(5)The winners will play Cork or Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Connacht Final: Galway vs Mayo, Sunday, 15th November, 13:30 (Pearse Stadium).
5 biggest GAA shocks this century
— The GAA (@officialgaa) November 10, 2020