Mayo minor footballers suffered their first defeat in the Connaught minor league when going down to a strong Longford side in Ballyhaunis on Saturday. In a highly entertaining game, Mayo had to play settle fiddle to their opponents for long periods and had to battle very hard to stay incontention right up to the final whistle.
They also have two forwards, Robbie Smith and James McGivney, who are as good as you would get at this age level in the country.
They are two we should hear a lot about in the future. The Mayo team, which showed nine changes to the one that lined out against Roscommon in the first round, worked very hard throughout. The highlight of their performance was the battling qualities they displayed against their stronger and more physical opponents.
However, they will have to get stuck in from the word go in their remaining games as against Longford they fell too far behind on two occasions at the beginning of both halves to give themselves a chance of winning.
There was less than a minute gone when Mayo opened the scoring, impressive wing back Patrick Collins joining the attack before firing over a delightful point from over on the right wing.
But this was to prove Mayo's only score of the first quarter as once Longford settled into their stride, they took control in most areas of the field.
The visitors' opening score arrived on eight minutes, a pointed free by Robbie Smith. Two points from James McGivney and a second from Smith had Longford three in front at the end of the quarter, 0-4 to 0-1.
Evan Regan and Cillian Lynn exchanged points before Longford began to make their dominance pay where it mattered most – on the scoreboard. McGivney added two points before midfielder Daniel Mimnagh was on the end of a good upfield movement involving several Longford players before crashing the ball to the back of the net past the helpless Mayo 'keeper, Eddie Hanlon.
This goal left Longford eight points in front by the 22nd minute, which was nothing more than their overall play deserved.
However, for the remainder of the half Mayo came a lot more into the game and began to drive from the back at their opponents. Two pointed frees by Regan were followed by a goal from centre-half back Ryan Quirke. It was a rather lucky goal as Quirke's shot was meant for a point but dropped under the bar into the net. It was, however, a score that brought Mayo right back into contention.
In the closing moments Regan and Gary McGuire exchanged points to leave it a three-point game at the interval, 1-8 to 1-5, in favour of Longford.
Mayo started the second-half brightly and by the 33rd minute they had closed the gap to the minimum after Ryan Leonard and Ryan Quirke landed points. But as things transpired, this was as close as they got.
After McGivney and Regan exchanged points, Longford upped the ante. They scored a goal and six points without reply to leave them 10 in front with as many minutes remaining.
At this stage Mayo looked dead and buried but a couple of substitutions by the management helped give them a new lease of life and for the second time in the game they clawed their way back into the game.
Anthony Jordan and Smith exchanged points before a great Mayo upfield movement involving Conor O'Shea, Gareth O'Donnell, Adam Gallagher and Kevin Ryan ended with James Shaughnessy planting the ball in the back of the Longford net.
Kevin Ryan and Evan Regan followed with points before Shaughnessy set up Jordan to score Mayo's second goal as the game entered injury time and leave the sides level.
However, it was Longford who was to get the final score of the game, a point from McGivney, to give them a narrow one-point victory. Based on their overall play, it was a victory they just about deserved.
This Mayo performance was an improvement on the first league game the previous week as they showed great battling qualities and refused to throw in the towel when all seem lost. However, a lot more improvement will be expected in their remaining league games in order for them to be spot-on for the championship.
Scorers for Longford: R. Smith 1-6, J. McGivney 0-7, D. Mimnagh 1-0, C. Lynn and G. Maguire 0-1 each.
Scorers for Mayo: E. Regan 0-6, R. Quirke 1-1, A. Jordan 1-1, J. Shaughnessy 1-0, P. Collins, R. Leonard and K. Ryan 0-1 each.
Longford: C. Farrell, M. McHugh, B. Collum, B. Farrell, S. Clarke, C. Clarke, P. Gill, T. Jackson, D. Mimnagh, C. Lynn, G. McGuire, B. McKeown, M. Mulligan, R. Smith, J. McGivney.
Subs used: C. Farrelly, B. Walsh, A. Dalton, D. Quinn.
Mayo: E. Hanlon, E. Casey, A. Strutt, A. Butler, P. Collins, R. Quirke, S. Henry, C. O'Shea, G. O'Donnell, I. Stagg, A. Jordan, M. Prendergast, E. Regan, R. Leonard, K. Craig.
Subs used: J. Shaughnessy, L. Nevin, A. Gallagher, C. Horan, K. Ryan.
Referee: M. Flaherty (Galway).