Posted by Shane Stapleton
Monday 20 May 2013
It was all over bar the red cards by half-time and the gulf in class was alarming during the 4-16 to 0-11 clash. Mayo look certain to be playing football into August at least, while Galway’s recent history of early-summer exits seems likely to continue.
These two counties’ flight paths have diverged enormously in recent years as James Horan, in game one of 2013 as he will call it, knows how to exploit a weakness.
Galway had plenty of those and gifted too many scores to Mayo in the first half — Alan Dillon’s score in the 26th minute, after Alan Freeman helped dispossess a Tribe defender, was the third they put over from a turnover. That’s where Enda Varley’s goal on the half hour came from too: Cillian O’Connor picked off an errant handpass from Tom Lynch, carried it forward, and shovelled it out to Varley who drove it to the net.
Colm Boyle was exceptional at the back and the abrasive man marking of Ger Cafferkey limited the influence of Paul Conroy, whose early fine score suggested there was much more to come, for the remainder of the first half. The loss to injury of another Conroy, Mayo’s Michael, looked significant because Andy Moran was not yet ready to start but Varley stepped up in the first half and Cathal Carolan also found the net on his championship debut.
To sum up Galway’s woes, their naivety and another dispossession saw Kevin McLoughlin’s quick ball in ultimately allow Donal Vaughan tap into an empty net to raise his tally to 1-1 in the first half — quite an impact for a half-back.
This Mayo side had only scored two goals since raising the green flag three times against Down in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final — they matched that in the first half at Pearse Stadium, and the battle of the west was won at a 3-9 to 0-6 half-time deficit. (Of course that game against the Mourne County was the last time Moran played in the championship, so it was good to see him back and finding the net on Sunday.)
Galway manager Alan Mulholland will have been disgusted that, although his side were beaten by the much better team, violent conduct saw two of his players sent off on straight red cards: Gareth Bradshaw and Niall Coleman.
With Mayo winning at such a canter, you could only feel sorry for the 13 players left to toil for the final 20 minutes, which were largely an irrelevance given the margin. Both of those men now face a suspension too, making Mulholland’s task to reenergise their season all the harder.
The question we have after Cavan’s 1-15 to 1-11 win over Armagh is: are the Breffni boys actually that good?
Because, with Joe Brolly was at pains to express on the Sunday Game, when saying Armagh genuinely were a disgrace and that manager Paul Grimley doesn't know what he is doing, it calls into question how good Cavan are.
Yes, they have won three under-21 Ulster titles in a row and that bodes well for the future but another side might have beaten the Orchard County by far more. Fermanagh may not be the team to prove or disprove the point on Cavan but certainly the latter, from some low days, have a decent path towards the Ulster final. Should they beat the Erne County, the winners of Antrim or Monaghan stand in their way as the big guns have all been drawn on the other side.
Then again, it may simply be the case that an emerging Cavan side needed to overcome a big psychological hurdle on Sunday, and that winning against a team that has for so long had their number was always going to come with warts on it. A game that they should have won by more could have been thrown away though.
Jamie Clarke’s disallowed goal in the 44th minute was a huge shame from an entertainment point of view — with play being called back after the foul from Jason McLoughlin. There was an inevitability to the ball ending up in the net once Clarke got it — even if the spectacle was even more supreme that we’d hoped — and only referee Maurice Deegan seemed to not expect it. Hence the early whistle and a fine score revoked.
Armagh should have turned the game in this spell, with Clarke robbed of a goal leaving Stefan Forker to tap over a free, before Mark Shiels pointed from a drop shot when a goal was certainly on. From seven down, Armagh could have had it back to the minimum but a cushion of five points remained.
In as much as the game could have turned for Armagh from the 44th to the 46th minutes, it should never have on 58 minutes when Ethan Rafferty lashed a ball to the net with his left foot. Cavan corner-back McLoughlin blocked down Clarke and then Rafferty before the ball was coughed up needlessly to allow the big man to score.
Doubly annoying for Cavan was that impressive forward Eugene Keating butchered an easy goal opportunity just before, after turning Brendan Donaghy and lashing at keeper Philip McEvoy with full-forward Martin Dunne begging for a handy assist.
Lucky for manager Terry Hyland, Keating and Dunne responded to the Orchard County’s comeback by picking off a couple of points by the hour mark. That made the game safe and ruined many a weekend prediction.
Eugene Keating’s score that never was just after half-time could have been costly on another day and you can imagine the Cavan manager’s protestations had his side lost by a point. Hawkeye looks set to be a great innovation for the GAA — but it’s still a pity that it’s limited to Croke Park alone for now.
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