Because Mayo's time in the big-time could be at an end
Is the sun coming out again for the Galway footballers?
After the harrowing 17 point home defeat to Mayo two years ago, Galway football supporters, stung by the humiliation of it all, had to find various ways of dealing with it.
One of their most famous supporters, Ciaran Murphy of Second Captains issued this rallying tweet to his followers, others chose to watch the Ja Fallon episode of the Laochra Gael on youtube rather than that evening's Sunday Game, while some went straight onto the Hogan Stand website and pinned the blame for the whole thing on Pearse Stadium, with its decadent plastic seats and proximity to the beach (that old barn/main stand in Tuam never witnessed the like).
However, the most defiant note was sounded by one Galway man whose stomach was somehow strong enough to watch that night's edition of the Sunday Game. The text, a noisy clarion call on the darkest day in Galway football history, simply said:
Whatever happened today, one thing's for sure. Galway will win the All-Ireland before Mayo will
During the early and mid 90s, with Galway football in deeper doldrums than it is even now, their supporters maintained this belief that a Connacht county would only win an All-Ireland when Galway got their act together - and not before then.
And so it proved.
Mayo are under new management these days. The last time Pat Holmes held the Mayo job, Galway picked up three Connacht titles and an All-Ireland tittle in four years - and the All-Ireland victory came in the one year when they didn't win the province.
Football in the west tends towards the cyclical. There is a growing sense that Mayo's period in the front seat out west is drawing to a close. History tells us who is most likely to capitalise.
Tight pitch is one of the great cliches of Gaelic football. Tight pitches proliferate in smaller, rural counties, and are thought to be favoured by underdogs. Tight pitches are beloved of big lumbering, blue collar teams who are intent on putting a leash on the white collar flash of those highly fancied sides jam-packed with superstars and dainty ball-players.
If Dublin do ever leave Croke Park, and play one of the unglamorous Leinster counties, my suggestion is that the home side reduce the playing area to size of a five-aside soccer pitch, or at least to the size of those patronising camogie pitches they used to have back in the 80s (maybe leaving out the small goals, that might be too obvious).
Galway do not like tight pitches. They have been felled on too many of them. For the 1998 Connacht final against Roscommon, Galway were accused of widening the size of the Tuam Stadium pitch to an almost dangerous degree, so that the sideline was roughly 50cm away from the spectators seated in the front row. Any players who slid over the sideline probably went crashing into the wire fencing.
For the replay in Hyde Park, Roscommon groundsmen were accused of doing the opposite. You could have constructed a running track between stand and the pitch in Hyde Park that day.
This is why Croke Park is Galway's salvation. Croke Park is not a tight pitch.
Its no coincidence that two of Galway's best performances in the past six or seven years have both come in Croke Park (although both games were lost) against Kerry in 2008 and Cork in 2013. If Galway can get to Croke Park again, their natural exuberance will be given full expression.
Galway are the new Down
Who needs Connacht? The Gaelic football teams of Galway and Down have long resembled each other. Not just for their reputation for producing slinky, confident forwards. Back in the era when Northern counties used to get routinely spanked in Croke Park, Down were famous for mining a disproportionate number of All-Ireland titles from their relatively unexceptional haul at provincial level. In the past quarter of a century, Mayo have won comfortably more Nestor Cups than Galway (its 13-7 since 1988) and last year they passed ahead of Galway in the provincial roll of honour. However, in Sam Maguire terms, its 2-0 Galway.
But its at u21 level that this over-achievement in the latter stages becomes startling. Galway have won 4 U21 All-Irelands in the past twelve years (2002, 2005, 2011, 2013). How many Connacht titles has he won in that period.
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