A long-range point by Ryan O’Donoghue from the very last kick of the game earned Mayo a share of the spoils with Galway in an enthralling opening game of the 2023 Allianz Football League Division 1 campaign.
Kevin McStay’s side had spent the majority of the night playing catch-up to the visitors, particularly after Galway captain Sean Kelly had struck his side’s second goal of the game eleven minutes after half-time. The Tribesmen even twice hit lead points as late as the 67th and 75th minutes, however, the late introductions of the ultra-experienced Aidan O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor and Kevin McLoughlin, together with O’Donoghue’s constant threat, were sufficient to see McStay get his competitive reign as Mayo boss off to a satisfactory start, with Saturday night’s game ending 1-11 to 2-8 at MacHale Park.
The Green and Red had held the briefest of first-half leads when James Carr rifled in a spectacular goal to the top left corner of Conor Gleeson’s net after ten minutes but a fisted reply by Matthew Tierney just three minutes later helped regain Padraig Joyce’s team a lead they would retain until half-time.
O’Donoghue, from play and a free, and Jordan Flynn were Mayo’s point scorers in a first-half that ended with Galway 1-5 to 1-3 ahead – Damien Comer serving as a brilliant target man for last season’s All-Ireland finalists, scoring two points and laying on another for Cillian McDaid.
Mayo, for whom goalkeeper Colm Reape, corner-back Jack Coyne and centre-forward Bob Tuohy were making their league debuts, enjoyed an excellent start to the second-half with points by Matthew Ruane, Ryan O’Donoghue, a free, and Diarmuid O’Connor nudging them a point ahead. But it was a lead that lasted only three minutes as McDaid released Sean Kelly who drilled low past Reape via the upright to leave Galway 2-5 to 1-6 in front after 46-minutes.
Mayo were to also suffer the setback of having Matthew Ruane take a visit to the sin-bin, however, they didn’t concede in his absence, which meant it was still all to play for entering the final ten minutes.
Paul Conroy had extended Galway’s advantage to three points but the game was all square by the 65th minute as O’Donoghue, two frees, and Bob Tuohy raised white flags.
Galway substitute Peter Cooke had a pointed free negated fromn play by Mayo sub Cillian O’Connor but it really looked as though Damien Comer’s close-range free in the fifth minute of stoppage time had settled matters until Galway shot themselves in the foot. Ryan O’Donoghue tried for a last-ditch point from a sideline kick but when the ball dropped short, Galway sub Cathal Sweeney kicked it straight back to O’Donoghue who from 40-metres made no mistake at the second time of asking in what was his sixth point of the game.
Mayo are back in action next Sunday when they travel to the Athletic Grounds for a Round 2 clash with Armagh.
See Tuesday’s print edition for a full report, analysis, reaction and expert columnists.