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Rochford's revenge mission, Aidan O'Shea factor, cold Tribesmen - Galway-Mayo talking points

Pearse Stadium is the venue as both counties chase a Connacht final spot on 9 July.

IT’S ALMOST TIME for another titanic Galway-Mayo clash in the Connacht senior football championship.

A final clash with Roscommon or Leitrim on 9 July is the prize on offer for the winners of today’s Pearse Stadium encounter.

Victory for Galway on home soil would represent another huge step along the road for an emerging team, under the guidance of former All-Ireland winner Kevin Walsh.

bosses Rivals: Galway boss Kevin Walsh (left) and Mayo's Stephen Rochford.

For Mayo, it’s a significant hurdle to vault as they aim to regain the provincial title.

Stephen Rochford’s men lost to Galway at the semi-final stage last year but recovered to reach an All-Ireland final.

Defeat this time, however, would leave Mayo even more vulnerable if they were forced to negotiate the qualifiers again.

Here, we take a look at some of the main talking points ahead of the latest chapter in a storied rivalry….

Mayo seek revenge

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Mayo were sensationally stopped in their tracks by Galway last year, as they tried to chase down a sixth successive Connacht crown.

It was a landmark victory for the Tribesmen, who’d been in the shadow of their neighbours and ancient rivals for so long, and at Elverys MacHale Park to boot.

Galway built on that win and went on to lift the provincial trophy for the first time in eight years.

Now the scene is set for an eagerly-anticipated renewal of hostilities, and form suggests that there won’t be much in it.

Where once they were the hunted in Connacht, Mayo now assume the role of hunters, and will be eager to wrestle supremacy back from Galway.

Can Galway continue on upward curve?

Gary O'Donnell lifts the trophy Galway skipper Gary O'Donnell lifts the Allianz League Division 2 trophy. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

When you consider the form that Kildare showed against Laois last Sunday, Galway’s Allianz League Division 2 final victory over the Lilywhites gains further credence.

That win was also special for Galway’s footballers, as it was their first time to savour a senior victory at Croke Park since 2001.

Kildare marked themselves out as potential Leinster dark horses with their emphatic thumping of Laois, and Galway will surely take comfort from the fact that they had two points to spare against Cian O’Neill’s men at GAA HQ in March.

Galway are also at home against Mayo, and are the reigning Connacht champions to boot.

That gives them a solid platform to build from, and home supporters will expect a big performance.

Tribesmen in search of more seasonal silverware

Gary O Donnell lifts the trophy Gary O'Donnell lifts the JJ Nestor Cup last year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Silverware at any time is not to be sniffed at. Galway ended that eight-year wait for a Connacht title last year and they collected another trophy with the Allianz League Division 2 success over Kildare.

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Gaining promotion was Galway’s primary aim but adding the divisional crown was a massive boost for manager Kevin Walsh and his men.

An impressive U21 outfit also won the Connacht title and shocked favourites Kerry at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.

Galway were foiled by Dublin in the EirGrid U21 decider, however, with a number of senior panellists involved.

But a new senior campaign has given rise to hope that Galway can enjoy another productive summer, although this tie does mark their first championship outing since last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Tipperary.

The Aidan O’Shea factor

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Aidan O’Shea is one of the country’s most talked about players at the present time.

He’s come in for some over-the-top criticism recently, most notably from former Meath player Bernard Flynn.

It seems that the Breaffy man is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, however.

A high-profile character, O’Shea can’t be castigated for merely stepping in for photos and selfies with young fans.

He will acknowledge, however, that his displays in big games when Mayo need him most could be better, particularly All-Ireland finals.

He was a surprise omission from the Mayo team for the Connacht quarter-final victory over Sligo, but did appear as a sub.

He’s named on the bench today but is manager Stephen Rochford ready to spring him from the start? Either way, expect O’Shea to play a big part.

Galway coming in cold

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While Galway will feel that Mayo are there for the taking again, they are coming in cold.

The Tribesmen last played a competitive game on 9 April, when they beat Kildare in that Division 2 final.

By the time they step out at Pearse Stadium this afternoon, nine weeks will have passed since that last outing.

In the meantime, Mayo have blown out some dirty petrol against Sligo, and discovered some key areas to work on ahead of a massive derby.

The nature of that victory shouldn’t be underestimated, as Sligo had a previous game of their own, a tricky assignment against New York, under their belts.

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