Mayo reclaimed the National Football League title with victory over Connacht neighbours Galway at Croke Park.
Mayo 0-14 Galway 0-11
BY SHANE STAPLETON
The joy on Kevin McStay’s spoke of a county delighted with league glory. It was refreshing to see.
An NHL title may not be the intended final destination for 2023, but you take what the journey gives you.
If that means silverware against early-season expectations, then embrace the medals and the momentum. It beats the hard-luck stories.
While it won’t count for much against Roscommon next Sunday at MacHale Park, establishing a habit of winning at Croke Park is money in the bank ahead of what they will hope is a long season.
The Mayo forwards scored just 0-2 from open play, just as their backs had, while goalkeeper Colm Reape needed to make four key saves en route to being named man of the match.
On the positive side, they are unbeaten in matches that matter this season (considering the Monaghan game was a dead rubber) and made it to a league final with a round to spare.
Padraic Joyce felt that some of the Mayo frees were quite generous and was disappointed with his side’s finishing in front of goal.
Reading between the lines, Joyce was also upset that Reape was not red-carded for taking out Johnny Heaney after the latter stabbed a shot wide on 24 minutes. A yellow was brandished, and certainly the ‘keeper can feel fortunate it wasn’t more.
The Tribe’s main man, Shane Walsh, was very quiet against Kerry last time out, but found a spark this time on occasion.
A couple of exhibitions of pace, two fine points from distance, and three placed balls.
There’s a fine line between confidence — which his talent merits — and overestimating one’s two-footedness. Yes, Walsh can score beautifully with boot feet and from distance, but a weaker foot can never be as reliable.
The Kilmacud Crokes man hit two ’45s and one 35-yard free wide with his left foot, while converting one placed ball off with the same boot from 40-plus yards. A 25% return in a game they lost by three points stood out.
The man is still one of the best around and may slot them another day, but perhaps Joyce will question whether this is a sensible approach going forward.
Aidan O’Shea won three scoreable frees and fed Ryan O’Donoghue for two converted marks, again showing his value closer to the opposition goal.
Tommy Conroy came off the bench and won two frees that helped see his team over the line, while O’Donoghue nailed the majority of his frees.
Most other days, the likes of Jordan Flynn and Matthew Ruane are more impactful, which suggests there is even more to come from this side as the campaign rolls out before us.