Analysis: How Galway protected the 'D', Mayo's shooting costs them and impact of super subs

A breakdown of yesterday’s action in Castlebar.

IN CASTLEBAR YESTERDAY evening, there was a sense of disappointment for most people that a game that promised so much did not deliver from an entertainment point of view.

Damien Comer Galway's Damien Comer in action against Mayo's Chris Barrett. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

We did however get a tactical battle from two football heavyweights.

Below is a brief summary of all key events in the game:

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 12.26.47 Source: @GaaStatsman

The major turning point in this game came in the 31st minute with Diarmuid O’Connor receiving a straight red card.

Same old story for Mayo – Shooting

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 12.27.54 Source: @GaaStatsman

Time and time again for this Mayo team, they have been let down by poor shooting, bad decision making and inconsistent forward play, yesterday proved no different.

Mayo finished the game with an overall shooting efficiency of 44%. A major reason that Mayo stayed in this game was Galway’s concession of six scoreable frees. Mayo had a bleak return of 38% from open play.

As seen above Mayo’s decision making on shots was questionable, repeatedly they continued to shoot from outside the “D area”. Late on on in this game they had poor shot choices from Andy Moran, Colm Boyle, and James Durcan.

None of this was helped by Galway continuing to play at least 13 players behind the ball. Early on they played with just Damien Comer (on 45’ metre line) and Sean Armstong (on the 13 metre line) in the other half.

On the other side Galway had what they would consider a poor day in terms of shooting with a shooting efficiency of 54%. Galway will be extremely disappointed with dropping five balls into the hands of goalkeeper David Clarke.

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 12.27.47 Source: @GaaStatsman

No Goals Galway

A key trait for Galway over the past six months has been their focus on not conceding goals. Between 2015 and 2017 Galway conceded 32 goals between league and championship. To date after nine games in 2018 Galway have only conceded one goal so far.

This is due to a couple of reasons:

1. Kevin’s Arc 

Over Kevin Walsh’s four years in charge of Galway, he has tried to perfect his arc shaped defence in bringing up to 13 guys behind the ball and creating an arc shape, allowing teams to come down the wings and sideline but continuing to protect the “D area” and the middle.

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2. Mayo second-half kickouts

While Galway did try to push up on some Mayo kickouts in the first half, in the second half despite having the advantage of an extra man – they continued to allow Mayo possession from the kickouts. Mayo opted to try and use Colm Boyle for many of these.

The reason Galway continued to allow this to happen was to give their defence time to set up and ensure that they would not concede any goal. It worked as Mayo did not have one goal chance throughout the game.

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 12.27.41 Source: @GaaStatsman

Galway Goal

The final blow came for Stephen Rochford’s men in the 74th minute with a superb goal from Johnny Heaney.

However if we can cast our minds back to a minute earlier, Kevin McLoughlin had just put the sides level at 0-11 apiece. Mayo tried to push up on the kickout that followed.

Galway goalkeeper Ruairi Lavelle sent a looping ball to Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh and Cillian O Connor rushed in on top of him as he was bringing the ball down. It was deemed a high challenge by referee Conor Lane and a free out.

I wonder if O’Connor had waited and locked him would Galway have got their goal? These are the tiny margins between winning
and losing.

What followed though was the best piece of play we got to see all day – Adrian Varley who had just entered the play kicked a beautiful long ball into Ian Burke, this was the only successful long ball that was kicked in the second half.

Burke used quick hands to pass to fellow substitute Sean Kelly who offloaded to runner Johnny Heaney – who sublimely rocketed the ball into the Mayo net.

Galway Super Subs

There is no doubt that Kevin Walsh used his bench to perfection yesterday. The introduction of Ian Burke was a real game changer as we had seen from him earlier in the year with his club side Corofin.

He was always out in front of his man and was a live option for Galway at all times upfront. His decision making was on point throughout slipping key ball to runner off the shoulder.

Key for Galway was that all their subs had positive impacts on the game upon their arrival. For example within one minute of entering the play, Sean Kelly had scored a point and won a positive turnover. Tom Flynn when he returned to the game won a crucial Mayo kickout and fisted a point.

Mayo’s subs did not have the same impact on the game with Cian Hanley and James Durcan both having negative turnovers. With the departure of Tom Parsons from the game through injury, an option would have to bring on Donie Vaughan, who although he is not long back from injury would have very similar attributes to Parsons. Minutes later Cian Hanley replaced Seamus O’Shea and now Mayo had lost both midfielders.

To conclude when looking back at this game, Mayo will feel that once again their shooting let them down. With a long term injury in Tom Parsons, Mayo have lost a key man going forward. It is going to be a real challenge to turn their season around to reach an All-Ireland final again.

For Galway, with due respect to both Sligo and Leitrim, they are likely to reach a Connacht final against Roscommon and where they will get the chance to right the wrongs from 2017.

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Sean Murphy

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