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Connacht SFC: Galway defeat rivals Mayo

Declan Kyne and Cillian O Connor collide at Pearse Stadium.

Declan Kyne and Cillian O Connor collide at Pearse Stadium.

Connacht SFC Semi-Final

Galway 0-15 Mayo 1-11

By Declan Rooney at Pearse Stadium

Sean Armstrong kicked six points as Galway held solid in the face of a powerful comeback against Mayo to clinch a one-point triumph and a spot in the Connacht final.

Keith Higgins was sent off nine minutes before the interval and Galway worked their way into a four point lead during the second-half, only for Mayo to come strong in the closing stages.

Three frees from Cillian O’Connor drew his side to within a point, but Mayo could not force the equaliser in the seven added minutes that were played and Galway held on.

With a huge gale at their backs in the first-half Galway didn’t waste any time in building an advantage and Damien Comer pointed after Paul Conroy won the throw-in, and straight from the restart Galway pressed up which led to a sweet point from Gareth Bradshaw off the outside of his boot for a 0-2 to 0-0 lead inside a minute.

A foul on Bradshaw on the right saw Sean Armstrong stroke over Galway’s third point from outside the 45 metre line in the third minute, but Mayo soon settled. Facing Galway’s tight defensive line they needed to be patient and pick their way through, but five minutes in Andy Moran spotted the gap and allowed Kevin McLoughlin to score.

Lee Keegan looked to have guided a long range point over the bar, but his effort hit the post, fell to McLoughlin and the Knockmoreman finished low to the net for a 1-1 to 0-3 lead.

There was plenty of frantic play from both sides in the opening quarter, but one of the calmer moments came from Michael Daly who settled his side with a beautiful score from 45 metres, which sailed over on the wind.

Cillian O’Connor saw a shot on target crash back off the crossbar soon after and Shane Walsh landed a great score on the run for Galway, but Mayo seemed able to keep in touch as O’Connor’s frees and another point from Fergal Boland kept them close to their rivals.

Nine minutes from the break Galway’s hopes of a second win in a row over their rivals was boosted when Keith Higgins was shown a straight red card following an off the ball incident with Comer, but as temperatures began to boil, Tom Flynn soon joined him on the sideline when he picked up a black card.

But right through the first-half Armstrong was reliable for Galway and his four points from placed balls before the break meant they were well worth a 0-9 to 1-5 half-time advantage.

A bright start from Galway launched the first-half and they had a similar introduction to the second when an Armstrong free and a great score from substitute Eamonn Brannigan in the space of a minute stretched their lead to three points.

A long range score from Diarmuid O’Connor trimmed that advantage in the 43rd minute, but Armstrong’s 45 into the wind and Comer’s point when the kickout was pressurised soon had four between the sides.

Three Cillian O’Connor frees pulled Mayo to within a point with two minutes remaining and with six minutes added time to be played the sizeable travelling support fancied their chances of a replay, but two Evan Regan late efforts went wide.

**Scorers for Galway: **Sean Armstrong 0-6 (3fs, 3 ’45s), Damien Comer 0-2, Gary Sice 0-2 (2f), Gareth Bradshaw 0-1, Johnny Heaney 0-1, Shane Walsh 0-1, Michael Daly 0-1, Eamonn Brannigan 0-1.

**Scorers for Mayo: **Cillian O’Connor 0-6 (5fs), Kevin McLoughlin 1-1, Patrick Durcan 0-1, Fergal Boland 0-1, Diarmuid O’Connor 0-1, Andy Moran 0-1.

**GALWAY: **Ruairi Lavelle; Cathal Sweeney, Declan Kyne, David Wynne; Gary O’Donnell, Gareth Bradshaw, Liam Silke; Paul Conroy, Fiontán Ó Curraoin; Thomas Flynn, Shane Walsh, Johnny Heaney; Michael Daly, Damien Comer, Sean Armstrong.

**Subs: **Gary Sice for Thomas Flynn (31, black card), Eamonn Brannigan for David Wynne (half time), Danny Cummins for Michael Daly (70), Michael Lundy for Sice (70+2).

MAYO: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Patrick Durcan, Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan; Tom Parsons, Diarmuid O’Connor; Fergal Boland, Seamus O’Shea, Stephen Coen; Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran.

Subs: Aidan O’Shea for Seamus O’Shea (48), Danny Kirby for Andy Moran (48), Jason Doherty for Kevin McLoughlin (58), Evan Regan for Fergal Boland (61), Colm Boyle for Donal Vaughan (69), David Drake for Diarmuid O’Connor (70+2).

REFEREE: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).