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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Mayo can prove they are kings of Connacht

Galway look up against it

Galway could stop Donegal on their tracks in the football qualifiers
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Revenge is a dish best served in the summer and Mayo would take great pleasure from reversing last year's shock loss to Galway when they visit Pearse Stadium for Sunday's Connacht semi-final.

That is something that should happen and last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists are strongly fancied to defy a two-point handicap.

The better the opposition, the better Mayo are. They struggle against minnows such as Sligo and are better equipped to tackle the stronger sides.

Galway beat them 1-12 to 0-12 at the same stage last year but that outing arrived at a time when Stephen Rochford was trying new things and it was arguably the worst Mayo performance in the last decade. Yet, but for a sloppy short kick-out from Robbie Hennelly which allowed Thomas Flynn to score the only goal of the game, they probably would have won. 

Mayo are more settled now. They have a system that works. They have blended in exciting youngsters Fergal Boland and Patrick Durcan to complement experienced warriors Lee Keegan, Andy Moran and Cillian O'Connor.

Those who fancy Galway seem to base their argument on Fiontan O Curraoin and Flynn dominating the midfield battlezone but it is hard to see Seamus O'Shea and Tom Parsons allowing that to happen. Aidan O'Shea has been named on the bench but don't be surprised if he starts and he has caused Galway all sorts of nightmares in the last five years.

The fact that the game is in Pearse Stadium might actually suit Mayo. It heaps extra pressure on Galway and beating their arch rivals in their own back yard is something that this Mayo side would dearly love to do.

The attacking-minded nature of Keegan and Durcan from the half-back line, the pace of Diarmuid O'Connor and the accuracy of his older brother Cillian can see Mayo over the line. It might be far more straightforward than the betting suggests too.

The advice is to get stuck into Mayo in the normal match handicap giving up two points. It is also hard to resist having something small on Mayo conceding a six-point handicap at a generous 7-2.

It is worrying for Galway that they conceded 2-15 against a poor Derry side in round five of the league. They also coughed up 1-13 to both Meath and Down and 0-16 to Kildare in the Division 2 decider. Their rearguard unit have questions to answer and Mayo should be able to exploit that.

Paddy Power are offering 11-2 for either Cillian or Diarmuid O'Connor to win the man of the match award and, given they are Mayo's two best forwards, a win for the visitors will surely see both in with a massive chance of claiming the accolade.

The Connacht clash between Galway and Mayo will surely be higher- scoring than the Ulster showdown between Cavan and Monaghan and the 9-2 which BoyleSports are offering about no goal being scored at Breffni Park catches the eye. The same bet with Ladbrokes is only 100-30.

When these sides met in round two of the league in February, it was an eyesore which ended 0-7 apiece. There were hardly any goal chances.

Monaghan ran out wide-margin winners over Fermanagh in their Ulster opener (1-20 to 1-11), but they were gifted a goal from a botched Fermanagh kick-out and failed to create a single goal opportunity for the remainder of the encounter. That is worrying from a Monaghan point of view. They were content to kick points from distance.

Points from 30 metres or further from goal will probably win the game for Monaghan so don't expect them to change that strategy. Cavan conceded only two goals in their seven Division 1 matches and Monaghan allowed just five.

There is no love lost between Cavan and Monaghan and quotes of 11-2 about a player being sent off on both sides seems generous. Roscommon referee Paddy Neilan has been handed the whistle and it is worth remembering that he sent off Declan Kyne in Galway's league win over Down and also dished out a flurry of black and yellow cards.

It will be a huge surprise if Kerry do not get their championship campaign off to a winning start but Clare managed to keep their heads above water in Division 2 and they ought to be able to stay in touch until the final quarter.

Clare made blistering starts to half of their league outings, leading at half-time, and they could get their noses in front in the first half again. Backing them to lead at halfway and Kerry to be ahead at full-time is the way to go at 15-2.

Westmeath are a better side than Offaly, have already secured some silverware in 2017 by winning Division 4 and have the forwards to do real damage. Expect them to set a brisk tempo from the outset in their Leinster quarter-final and run out comfortable winners.

Recommendations
Mayo -2
4pts 11-10 general
Mayo -6
1pt 7-2 Paddy Power
Diarmuid or Cillian O'Connor to win man of the match
1pt 11-2 Paddy Power
No goals in Cavan v Monaghan
1pt 9-2 BoyleSports
Both teams to have a player sent off in Cavan v Monaghan
1pt 11-2 Paddy Power
Clare-Kerry double result
1pt 15-2 BoyleSports
Westmeath-Westmeath double result
2pts 7-5 BoyleSports

They have blended in exciting youngsters Fergal Boland and Patrick Durcan to complement the experienced warriors
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