Mayo Under 18 side that played Sligo/Leitrim in The Showgrounds.

Mayo show no mercy in the showgrounds

The Mayo Under 18 side qualified for the quarterfinal of the national inter-league competition after a comprehensive 7-0 win over Sligo/Leitrim at The Showgrounds last Saturday, writes Nigel Naughton.

The victory ensured Mayo of top spot in the group, and they can now look forward to a home quarterfinal. Indeed, it was at this stage last season where Mayo were defeated, losing 2-1 to the DDSL in Celtic Park.

They will look to progress further this year, and with the pace and power they possess on the break, one would not back against them.

They have a unique ability to soak up pressure before unleashing menacing and clinical counterattacks on the opposition, like they did on Saturday.

The performances and ability of Johnny Cocozza, Jack O’Shea, Michael Guilfoyle and, in particular, Jason Hunt mean that Mayo will always cause problems for the opposition back four, especially when they get them turned and on the back foot.

This method of attack was clearly evident from the off as Mayo looked very threatening in The Showgrounds, with O’Shea and Hunt both having efforts on goal parried away by the Sligo/Leitrim custodian Eoin Dever. On a rare foray forward, Ryan Feeney did have a chance to put the hosts ahead but blazed over from close range.

For all their pluck, Sligo/Leitrim simply had no answer for the pace and intelligence of Mayo’s attacks, and they deservedly took the lead after 14 minutes. Jason Hunt found himself in a clever position between the lines, and his perfectly weighted through ball was matched by an emphatic finish by Johnny Cocozza to give Mayo the lead.

Keelan McDonnell pulled the strings in midfield for the visitors, the Manulla man’s clever and incisive passing often the catalyst for Mayo’s attacks as he continued to feed the forward players with good supply from his holding midfield role.

The second goal arrived on 24 minutes as Conor High found O’Shea who punished Sligo/Leitrim’s high line before finishing powerfully to the net.

If Mayo were ruthless in the first half, then the second half was much more impressive. They continued to play with desire, urgency and tempo as they looked to punish the home defence at every opportunity.

Jason Hunt epitomised Mayo’s performance in the second half. The Sligo Rovers-bound winger’s display was of the highest quality, producing moments of sheer brilliance before he was taken off with 15 minutes to go.

Gavin Dykes and Ciaran Kelly were both in attendance at the game on Saturday and Hunt is due to sign for the Airtircity Premier Division side in the coming weeks.

Fintan Borotto is another player set to sign for Sligo Rovers. The towering central defender, also of Castlebar Celtic, produced a solid display at the heart of the Mayo back four on Saturday, and he will also join Rovers in the near future.

The half was barely 60 seconds old when we were witness to Hunt’s first moment of genius. He picked the ball up 30 yards from goal before unleashing an unstoppable left-footed drive straight into the top corner, a finish which would grace any ground.

The Castlebar Celtic man then bagged his second and Mayo’s fourth, coolly rounding the ‘keeper and tapping into an empty net after a clever through ball from Rob Jordan.

The fifth arrived courtesy of Michael Guilfoyle, a goal his overall play deserved. It came via a powerful finish from the edge of the area after Cocozza got to the byline and cut the ball back.

Hunt then went on to outdo his first strike, and in doing so sealed his hat trick. Again, from around 30 yards out, he let fly on the half volley, with the ball flying straight into the top corner, leaving many spectators with jaws dropped such was the quality of the goal.

Sligo/Leitrim continued to battle and did look to get the ball down and pass it when they had it, with Bradley Fowley, Shane McCallan and Fiachra Colgan all impressing.

However, for all their endeavour, they were simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and Mayo’s seventh goal arrived courtesy of substitute Adam Mulchrone as he poked home from 10 yards out.

Sligo/Leitrim: E. Dever, R. McMorrow, K. Moran, K. Crawley, C. King, S. McCallan, R. Feeney, B. Fowley, F. Colgan, A. O’ Boyle, C. McMurray.

Mayo: A. Hannon, R. Jordan, F. Borotto, S. Keaney, S. Collins, M. Guilfoyle, J. Hunt, C. High, J. O’Shea, K. McDonnell, J. Cocozza. Subs used: A. Byrne, S. Martyn, A. Mulchrone.