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It’s Connacht final day… with a twist.

For the first time in almost 100 years, the decider is being played at Croke Park.

Old foes Galway and Mayo face off for the JJ Nestor Cup at HQ, with 18,000 fans watching on under the blistering sun. The Green and Red are looking to retain their title, with the Tribe hoping to equal their haul of 47 provincial crowns.

More importantly, however, it’s another step on the All-Ireland championship journey for one county, and the end of the road for the other. The Leinster champions lie in wait in the last four on 14 August.

One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a cracker. 

Throw-in is 1.30pm, with the action live on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player. We’ll keep you right up to date here, too.

Here are the teams, as per programme. We’ll update you on any late changes.

Mayo

1. Rob Hennelly

2. Lee Keegan, 3. Padraig O’Hora, 4. Michael Plunkett

5. Paddy Durcan, 6. Oisin Mullen, 7. Stephen Coen

8. Matthew Ruane, 9. Conor Loftus

10. Bryan Walsh, 11. Aidan O’Shea, 12. Diarmuid O’Connor

13. Tommy Conroy, 14. Darren McHale, 15. Ryan O’Donoghue

Galway

1. Connor Gleeson

2. Sean Kelly, 3. Sean Mulkerrin, 4. Liam Silke

5. Kieran Molloy, 6. Dylan McHugh, 7. Johnny Heaney

8. Paul Conroy, 9. Matthew Tierney

10. Damien Comer, 11. Peter Cooke, 12. Cathal Sweeney

13. Robert Finnerty, 14. Shane Walsh, 15. Paul Kelly.

Two pretty confident pre-match interviews from James Horan and Pádraic Joyce on RTÉ One.

As mentioned, this is the first time Mayo have played in Croke Park without Cillian O’Connor since 2009. That’s 12 years. 27 games at HQ, as Horan points out. That said, he feels the big pitch suits their game. He’s backing others to step up once again. They’re ready.

Things you LOVE to see.

fans-outside-croke-park Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

crowds-of-fans-outside-the-hogan-stand-pub Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

enda-coyne Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Right. With just minutes to go, we want you to call it.

Who will be crowned 2021 Connacht SFC champions, and ultimately, progress in the championship?


Poll Results:

Mayo (198)
Galway (105)


That roar around Croker after Amhrán na bhFiann would give you goosebumps! It’s go time.

Throw-in: Galway 0-0 Mayo 0-0

Conor Lane has us underway.

3 mins – Mayo 0-1 Galway 0-0

Matthew Ruane with the first score of the game after a lively opening. Galway had a couple of opportunities to get off the mark early on, the best of those a fairly straightforward free to settle them but it sailed wide.

5 mins – Mayo 0-2 Galway 0-0

Ryan O’Donoghue tags on another after some patient Mayo build-up.

7 mins – Mayo 0-2 Galway 0-1

A beauty from Shane Walsh to get Galway off the mark. It all came from a brilliant interception at the back. 

8 mins – Mayo 0-2 Galway 0-2

Paul Conroy levels it with another fine effort. The Tribesmen are motoring nicely now, this game a pretty open one so far.

9 mins – Mayo 0-3 Galway 0-2

Paddy Durcan edges Mayo in front once again. 

11 mins – Mayo 0-4 Galway 0-2

O’Donogue knocks over a handy free after the returning Diarmuid O’Connor is fouled. Galway struggling with the kickout, which will be a concern for Joyce early on.

14 mins – Mayo 0-4 Galway 0-3

Conroy fists over for his second point of the match. Robbie Finnerty is down injured, he looks to be in a bit of pain.

Change for Galway: Finnian Ó Laoi, wearing the number 22 jersey, comes in, as a very disappointed Finnerty makes way after that injury.

Water break – Mayo 0-4 Galway 0-3

One quarter down, and it comes to a close after a Durcan wide. Time to get the fluids on board as the sun beats down.

GOAL! Galway 1-3 Mayo 0-4 (Shane Walsh, 19 mins)

What a finish from Shane Walsh, there was no stopping that! Conroy had a pop from distance and it looked to be going over but it came off the post, and Walsh came alive there and then. Game well and truly on.

23 mins – Galway 1-3 Mayo 0-4

Things are heating up nicely at HQ, vital interceptions coming thick and fast. Walsh had well and truly found his groove, playing with confidence after that stunning goal, though was brilliantly dispossessed by Aidan O’Shea. With a big chance on at the other end for Tommy Conroy then, he was one-on-two. The reinforcements didn’t arrive and he was done for over-carrying.

Mayo haven’t scored for 13 minutes, Stephen Coen’s mark effort the latest to go astray.

Change for Galway: Jack Glynn comes in for Sean Kelly, whose hamstring seems to have gone.

Paul Conroy, who has been excellent so far, looked to be in bother too, but he’s back on his feet again.

GOAL! Galway 2-3 Mayo 0-4 (Damien Comer, 27 mins)

Another big goal for Galway, Damien Comer the man to bury the ball in the back of the net this time after more superb work from Walsh in the build-up. The Tribe are on fire, playing with serious confidence, and that’s exactly what Comer needed.

Mayo are in trouble here, they look fairly rattled.

29 mins – Galway 2-3 Mayo 0-4

Pádraic Joyce is fired up, furious with an off-the-ball incident involving Shane Walsh. After some treatment, the Kilkerrin-Clonberne star is back up and at it. There’s no stopping him today.

Mayo really need to settle themselves; they’re panicking in attack, missing some straightforward chances and making silly errors. 0-4 in half-an-hour is a poor return.

32 mins – Galway 2-3 Mayo 0-5

Much better from Mayo there as Darren McHale splits the posts after nice work in the build-up from Diarmuid O’Connor.

A camera shot flashes up of Robbie Finnerty in a boot and on crutches. A horrible setback for him on such a big day.

36 mins – Galway 2-4 Mayo 0-6

Cathal Sweeney finishes off a stunning Galway team news by fisting over. Conor Loftus fires over at the other end straight after. It must be said, though, that the goal was on.

There’s been five minutes added on.

38 mins – Galway 2-6 Mayo 0-6

Two absolutely beautiful Galway points there; Peter Cooke curling over the latter of the two efforts. A thing of beauty.

38 mins – Galway 2-5 Mayo 0-6

Scratch that, HawkEye overruled. “It was almost a thing of beauty,” as Marty Morrissey says! The Galway forward line are moving brilliantly; Comer, Walsh, Cooke and Conroy in particular hugely influential. Matthew Tierney chipped in with the previous score, too.

40 mins – Galway 2-5 Mayo 0-6

An eventful few minutes. First, Comer sees yellow. Then, Aidan O’Shea, who’s now operating at full-forward having been moved all over the place, plucks a long ball in from the air before being swallowed up in a scramble. There are Mayo calls for a penalty, but Lane waves them on. O’Shea and Sean Mulkerrin appear to have clashed heads at some stage too, but they’re both fine after medical treatment.

Some unsavoury scenes there as the teams went in at half time, and a row broke out in the tunnel. Aidan O’Shea and Damien Comer were right in the thick of it, with plenty others involved before it was broken up and they headed into the dressing rooms.

Focusing on the action, first-half goals from Shane Walsh and Comer have Galway in the driving seat — and deservedly so — at Croke Park. Their big men have really stood up today, with Mayo the opposite.

But this game is far from over.

SECOND-HALF: Galway 2-5 Mayo 0-6

And we’re off again. Some changes at the break, we’ll have them for you shortly.

PENALTY for Mayo! A big opportunity for them to get back into the match, as Ruane is fouled.

GOAL! Galway 2-5 Mayo 1-6 (Ryan O’Donoghue penalty, 37 mins)

Game on! Excellent penalty from O’Donoghue, slotting home at the Canal End as Connor Gleeson goes the other way.

40 mins – Galway 2-5 Mayo 1-7

Tensions are high, this is electric stuff — and the crowd are loving it!

The Mayo fans, more so, as Tommy Conroy sends another over after a scintillating run. The Green and Red are playing with much more aggression, and Aidan O’Shea is causing problems for the Tribe inside.

45 mins – Galway 2-5 Mayo 1-7

It’s all go here, and a one-point game. Jordan Flynn comes in for Conor Loftus, who’s off as a blood sub after a big shoulder from Liam Silke. Lane seems to be letting good shoulders happen, though that Comer card in the first half was questionable.

Ruane is then booked for fouling Mulkerrins as they were chasing the turnover close to goals.

48 mins – Galway 2-5 Mayo 1-8

And we’re level. Ruane steps up with another inspirational point.

Drama at the other end just after, as Comer gets a flick on a long ball in / shot, and it eventually comes off the crossbar leading to a goalmouth scramble but they get it away… and breathe.

49 mins – Mayo 1-9 Galway 2-5

Oisin Mullen was the man to get it away, and Kevin McLaughlin points at the other end to put them one up.

51 mins – Mayo 1-10 Galway 2-5

Ryan O’Donoghue pops a free over for an insurance point. It comes after outrageous work around the middle from Mayo, it’s a real war zone in there. Aidan O’Shea has really stepped it up, the intensity through the roof now.

Water break – Mayo 1-10 Galway 2-5

And breathe… an insane second half so far. Mayo are man-marking Galway’s key men and that’s the big difference, their turnovers and aggression in the tackle working wonders. Galway could really do with a score or two.

53 mins – Mayo 1-11 Galway 2-9

Conroy with another big score, and Mayo are flying it now.

55 mins – Mayo 1-11 Galway 2-5

A huge turnover from Padraic O’Hora there, dispossessing Paul Conroy as Galway go in search of a much-needed score. Coming out, he’s gunned down, and the Tribe player — I didn’t quite catch who it was, apologies — sees yellow with a free awarded.

Conor Loftus points from the resultant attack. Mayo are four points up now.

Change for Mayo: Rory Brickenden for O’Hora. There have been quite a few in this half I’ve missed, sorry. It’s been pretty crazy, to say the least. Doing well to keep ye updated on scores!

Marty Morrissey saying that there’s a mobile ambulance on the field for O’Hora. It’s off camera, but that’s quite a concern. Wishing him well.

A huge round of applause as O’Hora comes off. Game on again. 1-12 to 2-5, Mayo firmly in the driving seat.

61 mins – Mayo 1-12 Galway 2-6

Matthew Tierney scores a free to grab Galway’s first score of the second half. A needless boot in from Lee Keegan there to concede the free, and he sees yellow for it.

63 mins – Mayo 1-12 Galway 2-6

Ryan O’Donoghue had the ball in the back of the net for a goal there, the crowd going wild. But Conor Lane had blown the whistle, adjudging O’Donoghue to foul in the build-up, so it doesn’t count.

66 mins – Mayo 1-12 Galway 2-7

Another Tierney free brings the difference back to two points. Galway enjoying a bit more possession, is the comeback on?

GOAL! Mayo 2-12 Galway 2-7 (Matthew Ruane, 66 mins)

Another absolutely top-class goal after Ruane dances through a tired Galway defence and produces a cool finish.

68 mins – Mayo 2-13 Galway 2-7

Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly with his first of the day from a ’45, after Connor Gleeson gets his fingertips to what could have been another Mayo goal to really put the game to bed.

70 mins – Mayo 2-13 Galway 2-7

Bad to worse for Galway as Michael Farragher sees red and they’re reduced to 14 after his second yellow card. Eight minutes added on, six points in it.

72 mins – Mayo 2-13 Galway 2-7

Some poor Galway mistakes down the home straight, summing up their second half. Their game well and truly fell apart at the start of the second half, as Mayo’s bench and conditioning made a massive difference.

74 mins – Mayo 2-13 Galway 2-8

Tierney with another free for Galway. That’s three he’s pointed in the second half, the only scores they’ve got.

75 mins – Mayo 2-13 Galway 2-8

Mayo are happy to play keep ball as the clock runs down. Conor O’Shea comes on for Diarmuid O’Connor, good to see him back. He’s one of the several fresh legs introduced by James Horan, their talismanic leader and Conor’s brother, Aidan, on the bench for the last few. It has to be said, his work-rate was immense in the second half.

77 mins – Mayo 2-14 Galway 2-8

James Carr sticks a point over, though he was one-on-one and the goal was on. Oisin McConville not impressed on commentary, saying he should have rounded the keeper and stuck the ball in the back of the net if he wants a starting place the next day.

So, that’s that. Mayo are crowned 2021 Connacht senior football champions after a stunning second-half comeback. Aidan O’Shea lifts the JJ Nestor Cup for the second year in-a-row, this time in Croke Park with the fans watching on.

A fantastic turnaround, Mayo came back out for the second half riled up and it showed. They dominated throughout, nullifying Galway’s strengths and that was the difference as Galway ran out of steam.

 

Some full-time thoughts from The42 GAA writers Kevin O’Brien and Fintan O’Toole:

Lovely scenes as Mayo celebrate some summertime silverware in Croke Park. They’ll enjoy this one, but their focus now switches to the All-Ireland semi-final against the Leinster champions… 

Matthew Ruane has just been named RTÉ’s Player of the Match. He was absolutely immense today, finishing with 1-2. “He has the all-round package as a midfielder,” Ciarán Whelan notes.

I’m going to leave ye on that note, but stay with us on The42 as our GAA coverage focus now switches to the Munster decider between Cork and Kerry. Our liveblog will be fired up shortly, with Fintan O’Toole on site in Killarney.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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