Mayo come good to see off Leitrim challenge
In typical November weather – not traditionally a time associated with inter-county football – Mayo struggled at times but eventually came good to see off the challenge of Leitrim by 2-15 to 0-10 at Páirc Sean Mac Diarmada, Carrick-on-Shannon, in the Connaught SFC quarterfinal this afternoon.
But see off the home side they did, eventually pulling clear of opponents who got off to a lightening start but ran out of steam against more experienced opponents.
It was a great first 10 minutes for the home side, who seemed to deal better with the slippery underfoot conditions as they rattled off points through Shane Quinn, Evan Sweeney, Domhnaill Flynn and Keith Beirne to go four clear before Mayo got off the mark.
However, quick scores from Brian Walsh and Cillian O'Connor (two frees) had Mayo well back in contention at the first water break, and with Leitrim's Oisin McCaffrey in the sin bin by now, the visitors were in good shape for the second quarter.
Mayo were starting to find holes in the packed Leitrim defence and Tommy Conroy capitalised after Cillian O'Connor's long ball was recycled by Patrick Durcan into the corner forward's hands. The finish was emphatic to the bottom corner.
With O'Connor proving accurate from play and frees, Mayo were in the ascendancy, though Beirne kept Leitrim in touch with a second free and Donal Casey might have fired under rather than over the bar late on when Beirne found him with a clever pass in front of David Clarke's goal.
There was just a goal in it at the break, 1-6 to 0-6 in Mayo's favour, but the visitors would have wind assistance for the second half. It was an advantage that had lessened as the second half started, but still Mayo made use of whatever assistance it had to give.
Leitrim started the second half well and two frees from Kevin Beirne sandwiched one from Cillian O'Connor at the other end in a scrappy 10-minute period.
Mayo eventually cut loose though, O'Connor's goal on 48 minutes proving decisive. It gave Mayo a two-goal cushion and from then on it was just a case of determining what the winning margin would be.
It finished in an 11-point margin, and it could have been more but for two excellent saves from Leitrim 'keeper Brendan Flynn to deny substitute James Carr and Paddy Durcan.
Leitrim attackers – those few who were committed forward – were feeding off scraps and Oisín Mullin, left behind to mind the house, mopped up a lot that came his way in an impressive showing.
Up top, Cillian O'Connor marked his return to the starting 15 with a brilliant 1-9 tally, while James Horan was in the happy position to be able to bring on the likes of Diarmuid O'Connor, Chris Barrett and Carr along with newcomers Rory Brickenden and Darren McHale, both making their championship debuts.
Up next for Mayo is a trip to Hyde Park this day week for a crack at Roscommon with a Connaught final place at stake. It should be a great encounter.
Leitrim: B. Flynn; D. Casey, D. Wrynn, C. Reynolds; O. McCaffrey, A. Flynn, C. McGloin; M. Plunkett, D. Flynn; C. Dolan, P. Maguire, J. Gilheany; S. Quinn, E. Sweeney, K. Beirne. Subs used: R. O'Rourke, K. Keegan, P. Dolan, T. Prior.
Mayo: D. Clarke, O. Mullin, S. Coen, L. Keegan; P. Durcan, M. Plunkett, E. McLaughlin; M. Ruane, C. Loftus; B. Walsh, R. O'Donoghue, J. Flynn; T. Conroy, A. O'Shea, C. O'Connor. Subs used: D. O'Connor, J. Carr, C. Barrett, R. Brickenden, D. McHale.
*Pictured above, Mayo's Jordan Flynn is a study in concentration as he competes for the ball with Donal Casey of Leitrim in today's Connaught GAA SFC quarterfinal at Avantcard Páirc Sean Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile