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5 talking points ahead of Galway and Mayo's Connacht showdown

It’s been seven years since Galway have beaten Mayo in the championship, but Sunday presents as good a time as any.

1. Are Galway a coming force in Connacht football?

Damien Comer Damien Comer has enjoyed a good start to the 2015 championship. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

You’d have to feel that after winning two U21 All-Ireland’s and a minor title since 2007 that Galway should have made the breakthrough in the last five years in Connacht.

Galway have always had the players, but perhaps have lacked the killer instinct in recent years and have been blinded when facing against the red and green jersey in Connacht.

The last three meetings between the two sides in Connacht have seen Mayo averaging 10 point victories. Galway have been nowhere near their great rivals in recent years.

In 2013 there was a genuine fear among Mayo supporters that Galway were going to overturn them in the first round down in Pearse Stadium but a 17-point massacre ensued.

Sunday presents the biggest opportunity in a number of years for the Tribesmen to finally break the Mayo stranglehold of Connacht.

2. Is this Mayo side any different to James Horan’s?

Kevin Keane Kevin Keane has been played at full-back so far this year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

On paper this Mayo team isn’t entirely different, and on the field you can expect much of the same tactics. When James Horan stepped dow,n one of the first things the county board had to do was ensure that coach Donie Buckley would stick around. Mayo’s tackling game, fitness and overall intensity can be largely accredited to the Kerry native.

Personnel wise, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly haven’t shaken things up too much. The doubts about Ger Cafferkey’s ability to mark full-forward’s of the highest calibre remain, so Kevin Keane was played at full-back in most league games this spring.

The management duo have also introduced some younger players to the squad like All-Ireland minor winning captain Stephen Coen and Castlebar Mitchels’ Patrick Durcan. Mark Ronaldson was another beneficiary of the new regime,

3. Will Aidan O’Shea be deployed at full-forward?

Aidan O'Shea with Aidan Walsh O'Shea could be a big target in full-forward for Mayo. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

There’s no question that Aidan O’Shea is one of the best midfielders in the country at the moment. The question is can he be one of the best full-forwards?

When O’Shea first broke onto the panel as an 18-year-old back in 2009 he formed a ‘twin towers’ full-forward duo with Barry Moran.

Since then the pair have dovetailed in midfield together and O’Shea has mostly had his brother Seamus for company in the Mayo engine room in the past two years.

After the green and red were undone by Tyrone’s blanket defence in this year’s national league, O’Shea was sent in to the edge of the square scoring 1-3 against Monaghan and then shooting 0-3 against Derry.

It’s a tactic worth trying and Mayo have other midfield options in Seamus O’Shea, Barry Moran, Tom Parsons, Danny Kirby and Donal Vaughan.

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Moran’s familiarity with the full-forward role for Castlebar Mitchels gives the added flexibility of alternating the two.

4. Can Galway develop a platform in midfield?

Fiontan OÕCurraoin and Fergal Clancy Fiontán Ó'Curraoin is a big player for Galway in midfield. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Tom Flynn have formed quite the partnership for Galway over the past few seasons.

Flynn has had to ease back into playing since his knee operation, following an injury he received while playing for DCU against St. Mary’s of Belfast in this year’s Sigerson Cup.

Paul Conroy partnered Ó Curraoin for their quarter-final win over Leitrim last month, with Flynn coming off the bench just after the hour mark.

They have the height to match Seamus O’Shea and Tom Parsons, and should they start to edge the middle-third battle they can expect to be joined by Aidan O’Shea who will be asked to relinquish his forward duties for the day.

The midfield is an area where Mayo have enjoyed a lot of success in recent years but as David Moran and Anthony Maher proved last year, midfield can be the platform on which Mayo are defeated.

5. Will we see naive Galway?

Andy Moran celebrates with Cillian O'Connor Mayo ran riot in Pearse Stadium in 2013. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In 2013, Galway came into the Connacht championship with realistic ambitions of toppling Mayo.

The Tribesmen went into that game to attack their visitors but the planned backfired spectacularly. The gung-ho approach saw them get whipped by 17 points.

Last year’s Connacht final was almost damage limitation from the word go as Galway played more defensively than the previous year and they cut the deficit by 10 points from the Pearse Stadium encounter.

If they are to have any chance this time around they are going to need to hold the Mayo attack back for the first quarter at least. It is not in Galway’s nature, nor will it ever be their style, to play a blanket defence, but a man in front of their back three will be needed if Aidan O’Shea plays inside.

Originally published at 11.03

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