expert view

Analysis: More adventure from Galway, Mayo slow and laborious, Comer the perfect target man

The42′s columnist Rob Carroll takes a closer look at Sunday’s clash between Galway and Mayo.



IN ANY ONE point game, the losing team can point to missed opportunities but at the end of the game this result felt like a fair one.

Galway had a couple of goal opportunities of their own and despite Mayo hitting the post on three occasions, they never really did enough to win the game.

Mayo’s last score was in the 68th minute and even after six minutes of injury time they failed to register another score.

Of course the sending off cost Mayo and in no way are they done with the 2017 championship but not a lot seemed to click on Sunday.

Galway really came of the blocks in this game. Their first five shots all landed scores and to an extent it meant they could dictate the terms more than Mayo.

When I think of a fast transition team, I think of James Horan’s Mayo team and see McLaughlin, Boyle, Keegan and Higgins all bombing forward at pace.

On Sunday so much of their play looked slow and laborious.

As an early example we see Keith Higgins picks the ball up from a Mayo kickout.


Galway last season dropped to the ’45 and defended from there but it looked like a change in strategy.

Without over committing, they were willing to put more pressure up the field.

We can see here they have at least six players inside the Mayo half.


As Mayo made their way forward, Galway time and again set up with a couple of banks of players across the midfield line and half-back line, leaving two v two inside but knowing the cover could get back.


In another attack a few minutes later the ball ends up back in David Clarke’s hands after a short kickout.


Mayo move the ball slowly forward. Galway have men pushed up who are engaged without ever being beaten, so they are always in a position to get back and defend goal side.


Mayo just hit a wall of Galway defenders and every option is a slow hand pass backwards without anybody attempting to inject a bit of pace in the play.


Mayo switch the play and the ball ends up with Andy Moran but Galway have simply shuffled across and although Moran does well to break a few tackles, he has to do it all on his own.

It’s a wonderful block by Declan Kyne but it summed up the solo effort Mayo players needed to put in.

There were numerous examples where Kevin McLaughlin received the ball standing still and tried to inject pace but was snuffed out by a determined Galway defence.

Paul Conroy

Paul Conroy plays a pivotal role in this Galway team as a third midfielder and his strength is used to good effect at times.

In contrast to the Mayo pace, Conroy picks the ball up in midfield during the second half and really goes at Mayo.


He starts the move back in his own half.


It’s a slow enough build up by Galway. Mayo have the midfield packed with players. But Conroy decides to rejoin the play and inject some pace and power.

Conroy finds a gap between Fergal Boland and Cillian O’Connor that the Mayo players shouldn’t really allow.


Ger Cafferkey feels like he has to come inside and cover leaving his man, Liam Silke, free on the outside.

With Mayo already a man down, Conroy has managed to suck in another player.


He manages to get the pass off and the play opens up for Galway.


Mayo scramble and the final pass doesn’t quite go to hand but it was a sign of just how much easier Galway found it to create these sorts of opportunities.

It’s one thing to have an extra man but another to make good use of it as often as Galway did.

Another move early in the second half showed this. Galway’s initial attack slows and they need to recycle.


Johnny Heaney joins the attack and immediately creates a two v one with Seamus O’Shea.


There isn’t much Seamus can do here and after a simple pass Galway open a giant hole down the centre of the Mayo defence.


Mayo start retreating and drop deep and naturally get attracted to the ball.


Because Gary O’Donnell has kept his width a goal chance opens up.

Keith Higgins was providing this extra cover in the first half but you still have to make use of the extra man and Galway kept punching holes down the middle.

Galway Target Man

Setting up defensively is no use unless you can transition the ball and in Damian Comer Galway have a perfect target man. His physical presence and ability to kick a score was top class on Sunday.


Mayo are well set with two banks of defenders. The option of hitting Comer is always there and this will create space as the season progresses. Teams will be wary of his power inside and anything that makes a defender think can cause space.

With the move beginning to slow Gary Sice takes the initiative, you can see him just have a quick look to see what’s on inside.


He demands the ball from Conroy and again checks that the pass is on.


With his sweet left foot he plays a lovely ball over the two banks of Mayo defenders.


The pass is perfect but Comer still has a lot of work to do to turn this into something.


He ends up on the deck but his determination gets him up and into space.


Seamus O’Shea makes an attempted tackle but he shrugs it off and gets his shot away which resulted in a ’45 and an eventual score.

Comer was involved in the first move of either half. Both times, given the space afforded by being 6 v 6 from the throw in, he made good use of his possessions.

He kicked a beautiful point after getting out in front of his man in the first half and in the second under a little more pressure brought a player into the game to create what should have been a score.

He is exactly what you want in a target man, strong, able to win his own ball and seems comfortable holding up the play and either taking a man on or bringing in other players.

I would expect he will attract the attentions of a sweeper as the season progresses but that will open up the space for others.

Galway have seen good steady progress under Kevin Walsh. Last year was an all-out defensive system but this game showed something more adventurous, with promotion from Division 2 and with this win, the confidence in the Galway camp must be feeling high.

I’m sure they would have liked to kick more scores but that’s back to back wins against Mayo, so a job well done.

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