By DECLAN ROONEY
At MacHale Park
Tracey Leonard played a captain's role as her six points fired Galway to a sixth TG4 Connacht senior title in the last seven years and to victory over arch rivals Mayo at MacHale Park.
A Fiona Doherty goal and six points on a bright return to action from Cora Staunton kept Mayo in touch, but despite having Charlotte Cooney sin-binned during the second-half, Tracey Leonard and Mairead Seoighe kicked the winning points late on as Galway claimed back-to-back victories.
After winning the toss Mayo captain Sarah Tierney elected to play against the strong breeze in a scorching Castlebar venue, and it was the Tribesgirls that made that most of that advantage early on.
Roisin Leonard got them off the mark after 29 seconds before Nicola Ward and Tracey Leonard made the most of gaping holes in the heart of the Mayo defence to kick scores.
Following her late introduction to the team before throw-in Staunton's first involvement was to balloon a fifth-minute free high across goal, but she soon found her target on the heels of a Niamh Kelly point to cut Galway's lead to 0-3 to 0-2.
Galway continued to exploit the space in front of the Mayo full-back line and Aine McDonagh stretched their lead after nine minutes. That lead was four points by the 18thminute as Tracey and Roisin Leonard landed good scores, but a sweet Staunton point from distance kept Mayo in touch and they only trailed 0-9 to 0-7 at half-time.
Grace Kelly could have put a point between the sides straight after the restart but her free came back off the post, and it was Galway who then kicked on through Roisin Leonard.
Staunton then took on the free taking duties from the right and got Mayo back in the game, and after Seoighe worked hard to score for Galway, Staunton gathered a break to score for Peter Leahy's troops.
Niamh Kelly's direct running saw Mayo close to within a point, and when Charlotte Cooney was sin binned in the 45thminute Galway faced a real test.
Galway responded with points from Sarah Conneally and Emer Faherty, but a stunning goal from Fiona Doherty pulled Mayo back to within a point with ten minutes remaining. Sinead Cafferky levelled matters with a great score four minutes from time, but Tracey Leonard and Seoighe hit two quick scores to put Galway out of sight.
Galway now go on to face Waterford and the losing Leinster finalists in the group stages, while Mayo take on the Leinster champions and Cavan.
Galway scorers: T Leonard 0-6 (2f), R Leonard 0-3 (1f), M Seoighe 0-3, E Faherty 0-1, N Ward 0-1, O Divilly 0-1, A McDonagh 0-1, S Conneally 0-1.
Mayo scorers: C Staunton 0-6 (4f), F Doherty 1-0, N Kelly 0-2, G Kelly 0-2 (1f), S Cafferky 0-2
Galway: L Murphy; S Burke, S Lynch, F Cooney; C Cooney, N Ward, E Faherty; A McDonagh, C Cormican; O Divilly, T Leonard (c), A Davoren; M Seoighe, R Leonard, L Coen.
Subs: S Conneally for Coen (39), N Connolly for Lynch (39), L Ward for R Leonard (54), D Brennan for Davoren (60).
Mayo: A Tarpey; E Lowther, S Tierney (c), D Caldwell; K Sullivan, R Kearns, D Hughes; F McHale, C McManamon; N Kelly, F Doherty, S Cafferky; G Kelly, S Rowe, C Staunton.
Subs: O Cannon for McManamon (55), M Corbett for Hughes (56), S Howley for G Kelly (57).
Referee: G Carmody (Roscommon).