Mayo are Connacht champions for the first time since 2015, and are through to the All-Ireland semi-final after a 0-14 to 0-13 win over Galway at Pearse Stadium.
The tip to Salthill was never about underlining All-Ireland credentials nor showcasing an impressive style for Mayo. It was all about getting the win.
That is exactly what they did; leading for the majority of the contest and holding off a late Tribe comeback to get over the line. James Horan’s side are into the last four in the race for the Sam Maguire Cup, and await the winners of next Sunday’s Munster final between Tipperary and Cork.
As always in this fixture, neither side was willing to give anything away. Pádraic Joyce had kept his cards close to his chest all week, utilising the temporary rules allowing teams to alter their matchday 26, as Galway included Damien Comer on the bench.
Despite the home side enjoying a fast start with debutant Dessie Conneely kicking the Tribesmen into an early lead, Mayo then took control.
Cillian O’Connor, Tommy Conroy and Paddy Durcan all pointed as they stormed into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead. The hosts had few answers. However, a long pause in play due to a Johnny Duane injury stemmed their momentum, and the pendulum swung.
It was the Tribesmen who finished the half stronger, with Shane Walsh and Paul Kelly pointing to bring it back to 0-8 to 0-5 at the break.
Galway raised the temperatures once more in the second half, with Comer being sprung from the bench.
Paul Conroy found his range with a string of impressive scores, as the Tribesmen’s captain Walsh displayed his stunning range with eye-catching points.
But Mayo remained resolute, keeping their noses in front throughout, as substitute Bryan Walsh scored a brace of points.
Galway hunted a three-pointer late on as they trailed by two, and it looked like a real possibility when Sean Kelly stormed towards the Mayo goal. However, he was dragged to the ground by Eoghan McLaughlin, who took his black card punishment. The incident happened outside the large square however, so Kelly was awarded a free rather than a penalty.
Shane Walsh tapped over the free, but Galway couldn’t find a late equaliser.
Galway: Bernard Power; Seán Kelly, Seán Ó Maolchiaráin, Johnny Heaney; Liam Silke, Johnny Duane, Cillian McDaid; Cein D’Arcy, Gary O’Donnell (0-1); Paul Kelly (0-1), Paul Conroy (0-3), Michael Daly; Ian Burke, Shane Walsh (0-7 – 0-5 frees), Dessie Conneely (0-1).
Subs: Ronan Steede for Cein D’Arcy (24th minute), Gareth Bradshaw for Johnny Duane (29th minute), Kieran Molloy for Gary O’Donnell (45th minute), Damien Comer for Ian Burke (50th minute), Gary Sice for Paul Kelly (65th minute).
Mayo: David Clarke; Oisin Mullen, Chris Barrett, Lee Keegan; Paddy Durcan (0-1), Stephen Coen, Eoghan McLaughlin; Matthew Ruane (0-2), Conor Loftus; Kevin McLoughlin, Ryan O’Donoghue (0-1 – 0-1 mark), Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1); Tommy Conroy (0-3), Aidan O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor (0-4 – 0-3 free).
Subs: Bryan Walsh (0-2) for Ryan O’Donoghue (half-time), Jordan Flynn for Conor Loftus (58th minute), Mark Moran for Tommy Conroy (61st minute), Keith Higgins for Kevin McLoughlin (65th minute), Fionn McDonagh for Matthew Ruane (72nd minute).
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