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Question marks over Walsh's future, Mayo end losing run and looking ahead to Super 8s

5 talking points after Mayo’s 2-13 to 1-13 win over rivals Galway in Limerick.

1. Mayo end losing run against Galway

JAMES HORAN RETAINED his 100% record against Galway in the championship tonight. He’s now defeated the Tribesmen in four attempts from four, a run that goes back to his debut season in charge in 2011.

James Horan James Horan watches on during his side's round 4 qualifier victory. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Mayo managed to end their losing run against their neighbours too. They’d been beaten in their last three championship encounters and seven games in total across the FBD League, National League and championship stretching back to 2016.

Galway’s defensive approach under Kevin Walsh frustrated Mayo’s running game in previous years, but the smart movement of their forward line on this occasion created plenty of scoring opportunities. Mayo shot 10 wides, yet Darren Coen and James Carr looked extremely lively and dispatched 2-3 from play between them. 

2. Question marks over Walsh’s future

Walsh’s future as Galway boss will come under scrutiny following the conclusion of their season. He likes to refer to his end-of-year accounts after Galway exit the championship and in his fifth season in charge they’ll show a failure to reach the heights of previous campaigns.

A disappointing Connacht final defeat to Roscommon where they managed just 0-2 in the second-half was compounded by a poor start in Limerick where they fell 2-2 to 0-2 behind after 10 minutes.

Walsh has become a lightning rod for criticism due to his defensive approach, which is often used as a stick to beat him with when results don’t go their way. There will be pressure from inside the county for Galway to move on from Walsh over the coming months.

In his five years in charge, Walsh has led his native county to an All-Ireland semi-final (2018), two quarter-finals (2016 and 2017), in addition to two round 4 exits in the qualifiers. They reached four provincial finals, winning two and losing two, while winning the Division 2 title (2017) and losing the Division 1 decider (2018).

Corofin’s double All-Ireland-winning manager Kevin O’Brien, U20 boss Padraic Joyce, former Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke, Donegal coach Stephen Rochford and UCD manager John Divilly are among the names that would be linked with the hot-seat if Walsh steps aside. 

Kevin Wash Galway boss Kevin Walsh. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Mayo’s failure to put the game to bed

We’re well used to Mayo’s dramatic run through the qualifiers at this stage. They don’t like making it easy on themselves. James Horan’s men rattled the back of the net with two early goals, yet never really pulled clear of the Tribesmen.

A worrying 15-minute spell without a score in the second period allowed Galway back into the game. It was the sort of game that Dublin or Donegal would have put to bed during the third quarter, but that’s not Mayo’s style.

A missed Liam Silke penalty in the 53rd minute cost Galway dearly and when Shane Walsh found the bottom corner from a close-range free in the sixth minute of stoppage time, it was a little too late for the Tribesmen.

Horan will be unhappy with Mayo’s failure to deal with Walsh’s placed ball in the final minute. With a host of defenders on the line, they were caught out by Walsh’s quick-thinking. On another occasion near the end, Keith Higgins was almost turned over as he soloed the ball across David Clarke’s goals.

Those defensive issues will need to be addressed as things go up a notch in the Super 8s.

Shane Walsh and Jason Doherty Shane Walsh and Jason Doherty battle for possession. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

4. Positive news on the injury front

Despite their spate of injuries, Mayo have won three big games in 15 days to reach the last eight of the competition. 

The sight of Lee Keegan and Seamie O’Shea making returns from injury off the bench was a major boost for Horan’s side. 

In addition, Cillian O’Connor kicked six points (0-5 frees) in his first start for the county in almost 12 months and Donie Vaughan made the starting XV for the first time in 2019.

In even further good news, Horan was optimistic that Diarmuid O’Connor (broken wrist) and Matthew Ruane (broken collarbone) would play some start in the Super 8s with the final round-robin game against Donegal a realistic target. 

5. Trip to Killarney for opening weekend of Super 8s

Mayo’s reward for tonight’s victory is a quick turnaround against Kerry in Killarney on Sunday afternoon. It’s a game Mayo are well capable of winning. They defeated the Kingdom in their most recent meeting, the Division 1 final back in March. 

Kerry looked defensively vulnerable in the Munster final against Cork and shipped three goals. Mayo’s hard running game has caused the Kingdom problems before and the momentum gleaned by their qualifier run should stand them in good stead next weekend. 

Mayo will be expected to account for the winner of Meath and Clare in round 2 before in-form Donegal visit Castlebar in the final round of games. Beat Kerry in eight days and Mayo give themselves an excellent chance of making the All-Ireland semi-finals and, crucially, avoiding Dublin in the last four.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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