Posted by Shane Stapleton

The championship is kicking into gear this weekend with Galway taking on Mayo, Armagh battling it out with Cavan and Carlow travelling to Westmeath — let’s have a look to see how history weighs on these clashes.

Galway mayo

The championship is kicking into gear this weekend with Galway taking on Mayo, Armagh battling it out with Cavan and Carlow travelling to Westmeath — let’s have a look to see how history weighs on these clashes.

The fickleness of the Irish weather right now has reminded us of what is a constant in football: the duopoly of Mayo and Galway in Connacht.

Just twice since the men of the west decided to see who was the best team in the province has a final been contested without either of this pair, in 1947 and 2010. The irony with 2010 being that, once Sligo had done away with both dominant forces, they succumbed to Done Shine’s Roscommon in the final.

In 2013, Mayo and Galway meet to see who will face the Rossies in the semi-final. Could this be just a third season in which neither of these duopolists get to a provincial final? The bookies feel Mayo are an even-money shot to make it a three-in-a-row and, in doing so, push one ahead of the Tribesmen in the all-time Connacht title list with 45 wins.

After 76 championship games between Mayo and Galway, the sides are locked on 38 wins a piece. During the 1990s, a study carried out in the Western People found that just a kick of a ball separated the sides when the scores from 50 previous meetings were aggregated. Close shaves they most certainly are involved in.

For now, the sides have 44 local crowns each and there have been some classic encounters with some classic scores down the years, such as…

*Note: this does not purport to be a definitive list of epic clashes, merely a selection we have made!

Mayo 2-12 Galway 1-14
Connacht SFC final 2009, Pearse Stadium

Sometimes the chills down your spine endure long after the final whistle has been blown, and this clash in 2009 certainly falls into that bracket.

Mayo, in response to Kerry’s ‘Twin Towers’ tactic involving inside forwards Kieran Donaghy and Tommy Walsh, sent Barry Moran and Aidan O’Shea in to circle the Galway square with dangerous intent.

The Heather County were all ‘about the height of it’, and Moran palmed to the net after one of many high balls was floated into the penalty area in the first half — the ploy was working.

But Galway came back and levelled the game late on when Michael Meehan flashed a shot to the net. Mayo hadn’t won a championship game in Salthill for 42 years, but that all changed when wing-back Peader Gardiner floated over a beauty in injury time to seal his side’s 42nd provincial crown in a thrilling finale. 

Mayo 1-14 Galway 1-10
Connacht SFC final 1999, Tuam Stadium

Mayo hadn’t beaten an All-Ireland champion in 32 years and, after falling to the Sam Maguire winners of 1996, 1997 and 1998, they had a chance to dethrone the men of Galway in a rain-sodden Tuam.

Manager John Maughan kept a powerful cavalry on the sideline in Pat Fallon and Ciaran McDonald, springing them in the final 20 minutes as six late points propelled the green and red to victory.

Current manager James Horan gave a stunning performance and finished with 0-5, reminiscent of his display in the 1996 All-Ireland final reply. Mayo might still be waiting to get their hands on Sam but they picked up the Nestor Cup at the expense of a team that had. 

Galway 0-12 Mayo 1-8
Connacht SFC final 1966, McHale Park

Galway went on to win a first All-Ireland three-in-a-row in 25 years in 1966 but not until after they negotiated the threat of an upcoming Mayo side in the Connacht senior final.

The green and red had dominated the first half and went in with an 0-5 to 0-3 lead and, once MJ Ruddy found the net after the interval, the fall of the back-to-back champions seemed inevitable. They weren’t champions without good reason though and proved it with a late comeback.

Joe Corcoran levelled the game with a free late on before Liam Sammon fisted over a late winner for Galway. Cork were downed next, before Meath were taken care off as the Tribe completed a famous Sam Maguire treble.

It’s amazing to think that Cavan are the most successful team in Ulster SFC championship history with 39 titles because it seems to long since they have consistently been a force in the province.

Their last title was in 1997 and the Breffni County have contested just six finals — losing the other five — since the halcyon days of the 1960s. Armagh, on the other hand, have won their last seven Ulster finals and, along with Tyrone, were the dominant side in the first decade of the new millennium.

The last time the two sides met in a provincial decider was all the way back in 1954 but, in more recent times, they met in an Ulster quarter-final clash five years ago.

Armagh 0-17 Cavan 0-13
Ulster SFC quarter-final, Breffni Park

Not a classic Ulster campaign as Donegal and Tyrone fell at the first hurdles and kingpins Armagh only won the provincial crown after beating Fermanagh in a replay. But to get there, the Orchard County would have to do something they had never managed before, get a first ever win at Breffni Park.

Cavan dangerman Seanie Johnston — now of Kildare — was marked out of the game by Andy Mallon while, at the other end, Steven McDonnell clipped over six points as Armagh pulled away near the end.

The Killeavy man would finish as Ulster’s top scorer with 1-17 as his side picked up the provincial title. Still the Orchard County could not manage what Cavan have done on five occasions (1933, 1935, 1947, 1948, 1952), namely winning the All-Ireland in the same year as Ulster.