EVIDENCE of the unpredictable nature of minor football was to be found in abundance at Elverys McHale Park, Castlebar, on Sunday as a highly-fancied Sligo side came to town without their shooting boots or conviction and were unceremoniously dispatched by an average Mayo team who stuck doggedly to their task.
The quality of the football was poor in general but particularly disappointing from Mayo, who faded out of this game in the second half. However, manager Tony Duffy must be pleased with their industry and effort as they held on grimly against a growing Sligo tide which threatened to swamp the home side at one stage.
Had Sligo approached the first half in the same manner they tackled the second half we may have got a different result, but it is Mayo who made better use of their chances and had a handful of quality individuals who dragged them over the winning line.
In fact, the game could well have been over at half-time for Sligo but for their superb goalkeeper, Kevin Kelly, who made three top class saves, the best a full-stretch effort to deny Shane Hennelly from 25-yards.
A low-scoring first quarter saw Mayo edge in front 0-3 to 0-1, Seán Regan with the openings score from play after just three minutes following good work from Hennelly, but an excellent Sligo move produced the equalising point on six minutes from Cathal Henry.
That was Sligo’s only score for the half but they did have chances, six wides proving expensive on a day when every score was to prove crucial, a total of 10 proving fatal.
Eoghan Lavin from a free, and a similar score from Adam Gallagher, had Mayo two clear before a very good move involving the hard working Diarmuid O’Connor, who covered every blade of grass on the pitch, Stephen Coen, Gallagher and Hennelly ended with the latter being fouled in the square, but he could just as easily have been penalised for over-carrying.
It seemed a harsh enough call but the spot-kick was drilled low, hard and true by Gallagher and Mayo’s second point from play from Lavin gave them a 1-4 to 0-1 lead at the break.
A terrific run from Kevin Lnch almost bagged Mayo a second goal before the break but he was denied by the Sligo keeper, who also thwarted an earlier effort by Darren Duffy.
Mayo’ interval six-point lead was reduced to four when Sligo nailed two
points inside as many minutes of the restart.
Mayo stopped the rot with the point of the game from the superb Michael Plunkett and when Gallagher followed with another free Mayo were up by six again with 20 minutes remaining.
They failed to score for the remainder of the game as Sligo came battering at the defensive door, which thankfully stood firm, the half-back line of Plunkett, Cian Burke and Patrick Durcan quite magnificent, while Seán Moran put in a strong shift as did the corner back Kevin Lynch and David McHale.
The industry of O’Connor along with some good work from Gallagher and Hennelly kept Mayo in the game but it goes without saying they will be easy meat for their final opponents unless there is a big improvement, but I have a feeling this could be the game that might well make this minor team who have a second bite of the cherry should they lose the final and they may need it.
Scorers for Mayo: A. Gallagher 1-2 (1f, pen), E. Lavin 0-2 (1f), S. Regan and M. Plunkett 0-1 each. Scorers for Sligo: C. Davey 0-3 (2f), C. Egan, K. Henry and C. Henry 0-1 each.
Mayo: C. O'Malley (Westport), D. McHale (Knockmore), S. Moran (Kiltimagh), K. Lynch (Mayo Gaels), P. Durcan (Castlebar), C. Burke (Ardnaree), M. Plunkett (Ballintubber), B. Mullen (Westport), A. Gallagher (Mayo Gaels), E. Lavin (Kiltimagh), S Coen (Hollymount-Carramore), D.O’Connor (Ballintubber), D. Duffy (Aghamore), S Hennelly (Shrule-Glencorrib), S. Regan (Ballina). Subs used C. Byrne (Aghamore) for Duffy (45m), J. Quinn (Ballinrobe) for Lavin (52m).
Sligo: K. Kelly, M. Gordon, B. Walsh, S. Barrett, C. Surlis, K. McDonnell, D. Long, N. O’Rourke, C. Egan, C. Breheny, C. Davey, K. Henry, C. Kerins, C. Henry, S. Cawley. Subs used: B. Smith for C. Henry (50m), J. Quinn for Cawley (50m), J. O’Hehir for Kerins (55m).
Referee: P. Neilan (Roscommon).
Man of the match
The three members of the Mayo half-back line were neck-and-neck for the award. Michael Plunkett took the honours, his point in the second half stemming a Sligo tide which was beginning to ebb.
A goal was always going to be priceless in this game and Mayo were the ones who produced it, Adam Gallagher’s penalty in the first half proving the difference between the sides in the end.
Why Sligo left it so late to get into this game. They were outplayed in the first half but hit the ground running in the second only to be held by Mayo’s strong defensive work.