It will be a long, hard road back for Mayo... again!

It will be a long, hard road back for Mayo... again!
Mayo's Keith Higgins and Shane Walsh of Galway in action on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

SO, is this the end of the road for Mayo? 

Okay, we've been here before and, in fairness, this hardy bunch of souls, who've suffered more than any, keep on bouncing back.

This time, though, it seems the loss by Galway, who defeated their rivals for the third successive time, is one too many for an ageing team that has also shipped a lot of injuries.

It would appear the huge efforts in trying to win the Sam Maguire Cup and going so agonisingly close are taking a toll, especially with such a demanding schedule ahead in the qualifiers.

Mayo break now until the first round on June 9 with the second round on the 23rd and it's practically every weekend after that, including the new-look Super 8s.

Mayo's Chris Barrett looks on after Damien Comer of Galway attempts a point. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Mayo's Chris Barrett looks on after Damien Comer of Galway attempts a point. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Mayo not making the last eight in the championship was rarely countenanced in dispatches, but it has to be a live possibility now, especially as the qualifiers take on a different hue this season.

Previously, they were split into A and B sections, but that's been dispensed with now in preference for an open draw, which provides plenty of intrigue the longer the qualifiers move on before determining the four counties who'll join the provincial champions.

One of the more interesting aspects of Galway's victory, which sets-up a semi-final with Sligo, was the absence of any players from All-Ireland Club champions, Corofin, in their starting 15.

By all accounts manager Kevin Walsh invited half-a-dozen to join the panel, but only three took up the offer and just one of those, Ian Burke, saw action, when sprung from the bench during the second-half.

It's suggested the Corofin contingent aren't exactly doing cartwheels about the Galway style, which has a distinct defensive approach involving withdrawing plenty of players behind the ball, when not in possession.

Anyone who witnessed Corofin's marvellous exhibition in the final against Nemo Rangers will understand the contrast and appreciate their lukewarm view of the county team's strategy.

Yet, Galway captain Damien Comer captured the positive mood in the build-up to Sunday's game.

“There's definitely a buzz in the county that hasn't been there before. Galway football was low enough there for a while with poor performances and getting beaten by teams they wouldn't have been losing to in other years.

“It's nice that it's got up to where it should be. Even when you're walking down the street people are saying 'it's great to see that Galway are competing again.

“Even people from other counties are saying 'it's great to see a Galway team there or thereabouts because Galway were always known for their football,” he said.

All which leads to the most pertinent point of sport and that it's all about winning regardless of how it's achieved.

Peter Cooke of Galway during a coming together with Cian Hanley of Mayo. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Peter Cooke of Galway during a coming together with Cian Hanley of Mayo. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Results in Leinster's three games underscored once again that league form is often best ignored, when it comes to championship. Take Wicklow for example.

They finished bottom of division 4 without a win to their name and just a couple of draws, but they stunned an Offaly side, which just avoided relegation from division 3, winning by five points.

It was Wicklow's first championship win in four years and there was no doubting the hero of the day.

That was goalkeeper Mark Jackson, who saved a penalty and kicked seven points from placed balls, five frees and a couple of '45s. Next up Dublin!

Anyone who saw Cork defeat Louth in division 2 back in early February would have realised the plight of the wee county, who were relegated back to Division 3 after losing all seven games.

Yet, facing Carlow, a side promoted from division 4, should have offered them the chance to kick-start their season, but Louth only seem to be going from bad to worse judging by their 2-17 to 0-12 collapse. They'll all want to play Louth in the qualifiers. Carlow play Kildare.

Wexford's Donie Shanley must be kicking himself for taking e a handy point from an injury-time penalty against Laois, who then equalised before dominating extra-time. Decisions, decisions!

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