Connacht SFC final: Gardiner plants the winner

July 19, 2009

Conor Mortimer celebrates his Connacht final goal against Galway
Wing back Peadar Gardiner popped over a dramatic injury-time winner as Mayo beat Galway by 2-12 to 1-14 in the Connacht football final at Salthill. The winners dominated most of the game and goals from Barry Moran and substitute Conor Mortimer had them coasting with eight minutes left as they led by seven points. However, the holders staged a remarkable revival and reeled off four points in the last five minutes before Micheal Meehan levelled in the second minute of added time. Just when a replay looked inevitable, Gardiner made history with his stunning late, late strike With all six starting forwards and both midfielders on target in the opening 35 minutes, Mayo deservedly led by 1-9 to 0-7 at half time. All Mayo's first-half scores were from play, as were all but one of Galway's. Barry Moran flicked the goal to the net in the 21st minute and the defending champions were hanging on at times in that opening period. Galway played into the wind in the first half and only five points from the razor-sharp Nicky Joyce kept them in the match. Mayo started well with nice points from midfielder David Heaney and corner forward Aidan Kilcoyne in the second and third minutes respectively. Kilcoyne was almost in for a Mayo goal in the fifth minute but his slightly-screwed low shot flew inches outside the left post. Galway struggled to settle into the game early on and Niall Coleman's left-footed snapshot failed to find the target, but Nicky Joyce beat his man to boot over the holders' opening score in the eighth minute. A minute later, at the end of a flowing move, Joyce popped over his second in a row to tie the scores up. Alan Dillon's free from distance tailed wide and the No.12 then dropped a left-footed shot short into the hands of Galway goalkeeper Adrian Faherty. On 14 minutes, Heaney found himself staring into the whites of Faherty's eyeballs and he elected to fist the ball over the bar for his second point: 0-3 to 0-2. Padraig Joyce picked up possession for the first time in the 15th minute and the veteran playmaker made no mistake in firing his shot over the black spot. Mayo's riposte was instant, with towering 19-year-old Aidan O'Shea storming forward to point. O'Shea then picked out Pat Harte and the No.10 went for goal only to see his rasping shot unluckily go over for a point off the top of the crossbar. Liam Sammon brought Fiachra Breathnach in for the injured Niall Coyne in the 19th minute, with Gareth Bradshaw moved in to corner back to marshal O'Shea. The first goal arrived in the 21st minute: a high ball in from Ronan McGarrity (who was afforded far too much time and space) dropped close to the edge of the square and full forward Barry Moran got his hand to the ball to divert it to the net: 1-5 to 0-3 and Mayo were rampant while Galway were all at sea. Connacht final rookie Moran then placed Dillon for an excellent point from out the field. Mayo had hit 1-3 without reply but a spectacular catch from Damien Burke culminated in Micheal Meehan's opening score of the match. With O'Shea momentarily off the pitch after seemingly losing a contact lens, Nicky Joyce hit a brace of points to bring the Tribesmen back within a goal with half an hour played, 1-6 to 0-6. All six of Mayo's forwards had scored by the 32nd minute when captain and Man of the Match Trevor Mortimer threw Gary Sice out of the way to blast over off the outside of his right foot. Less than 60 seconds later, McGarrity kicked an exceptional point to increase the gap to five. Faherty did well to collect a dangerous high ball in from Harte in the first of three first-half minutes of injury time. Nicky Joyce almost stole in for a Galway goal just shy of the short whistle but he fumbled possession and dual star Keith Higgins was on hand to mop up. Dillon swivelled to arc over a brilliant Mayo point in the third added minute and Galway got the sympathy vote seconds later when Nicky Joyce was awarded the softest of frees, which he tapped over the bar to close the first-half scoring. Mayo may have led by five at the break but John O'Mahony was still prepared to ring the changes with Donal Vaughan brought in for Liam O'Malley at the back and Conor Mortimer replacing Kilcoyne up top. Meehan and Padraig Joyce missed Galway opportunities in the early phase of the second half. There were just three scores in the third quarter and the match gradually became a real slog. In the fifth minute after the resumption, Conor Mortimer intercepted a slack pass to register his first score of this year's championship off that trusty left foot. Dillon picked up the first yellow card of the evening and Padraig Joyce had another wide before Paul Conroy also missed the target with a wild Galway shot from distance. The hosts were getting more and more frustrated and Meehan went into the referee's notebook moments before his marker Ger Cafferkey also got a yellow card. Nicky Joyce kicked the 46th minute free that brought the gap back to five, 1-10 to 0-8. It was a four-point game when Nicky Joyce thumped over another wind-assisted free in the 49th minute and the opposing managers introduced Cormac Bane and Mark Ronaldson towards the end of the third quarter. Meehan drove a free between the posts with 15 minutes to go, leaving potentially just a score between them, and Conor Mortimer made amends for two earlier misses from play when he kept his composure to tap over a free on the stroke of the hour. The game looked over in the 62nd minute when the Mortimer brothers combined for Conor to palm to the net. The Galway defence misjudged the bounce of the ball and Trevor broke clear down the left wing before picking out Conor with a handpass. The No.21 finished the move and simultaneously ended the match as a meaningful contest. Or so it seemed... Meehan drilled over another free and almost ploughed through for a goal in the 66th minute only to be denied by an acrobatic stop from Kenneth O'Malley, who turned the ball over the bar for a point. Armstrong kicked a point from play - Galway's third in a row - to reduce their arrears to four (2-11 to 0-13) with three minutes left. Nicky Joyce dropped a high free wide but redeemed himself straight away with a delightful 69th-minute point from play - his eighth. Three additional minutes were called with a goal between the teams and Mayo tried to taunt and tease their opponents with a bout of keep-ball. It looked like they'd be made pay a heavy price when Meehan fired a low shot to the back of the net in the second additional minute, dramatically tying up the scores. But Conor Mortimer picked out Peadar Gardiner with a quick free and the flying wing back slotted the ball between the posts to give his team a famous win. Mayo - K O'Malley; L O'Malley, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Gardiner (0-1), T Howley, A Moran; D Heaney (0-2), R McGarrity (0-1); P Harte (0-1), A Dillon (0-2), T Mortimer (0-1); A Kilcoyne (0-1), B Moran (1-0), A O'Shea (0-1). Subs: C Mortimer (1-2, 1f) for Kilcoyne (35), D Vaughan for L O'Malley (35), M Ronaldson for B Moran (52), T Parsons for Heaney (66). Galway - A Faherty; N Coyne, F Hanley, D Burke; G Bradshaw, D Meehan, D Blake; J Bergin, P Conroy; N Coleman, P Joyce (0-1), G Sice; S Armstrong (0-1), M Meehan (1-4, 2f), N Joyce (0-8, 3f). Subs: F Breathnach for Coyne (18), C Bane for Conroy (49), M Clancy for Bradshaw (61). Ref - J Bannon (Longford)

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