Comfortable victory for Mayo over Mourne men
Mayo quickly got comfortable in the unusual surroundings of Division 2 of the Allianz National Football League with a convincing 2-21 to 1-11 victory over Down at Elverys MacHale Park this afternoon.
It was a day for cliches, with the sun splitting the rocks at times but monsoon-like rain thundering down at others, making underfoot conditions even more tricky for rusty players.
The game itself was nip and tuck early on as both sets of players adjusted to the demands of inter-county football again following the long layoff but gradually Mayo – playing outside the top division for the first time since 1997 – took control of proceedings, and from a long way out there only looked like being one winner.
Down did well to enjoy parity with their hosts until the 13th minute, the game tied at 0-4 each, but when Tommy Conroy blasted a low shot to the back of the net, it turned matters decisively in Mayo's favour.
Mayo took a stranglehold in the second quarter. Already having asserted dominance before the water break with that goal, they pushed on afterwards to establish a 1-10 to 0-6 half-time lead, and you couldn't say it wasn't deserved.
Down were living off scraps, though in fairness the lively Barry O'Hagan and Corey Quinn posed a danger whenever the ball came in their direction. It was enough to cause concerns for Oisin Mullin and debutant Enda Hession at times, though the pair eventually go to grips with the problem.
Rory Brickenden, making his league debut, had done well in that first half also but the strength of the Mayo bench was in evidence when he made way at half-time for his Westport team-mate Eoghan McLaughlin, a Young Player of the Year candidate last year.
Elsewhere, Ryan O'Donoghue and Conroy looked especially lively up front and it was the former who scored Mayo's second goal on 41 minutes after the move of the match. Oisin Mullin collected a short kick-out from goalkeeper Robbie Hennelly and quickly fed McLaughlin for a run out of defence. Conroy collected the penetrating pass and employed some trickery to get free, and then showed his unselfish side by transferring to O'Donoghue. A quick step inside later gave the Belmullet man the freedom to drive the ball to the back of Rory Burns' net.
Down were, well, down but not entirely out, and substitute Stephen McConville socred a fine consolation goal on 58 minutes to put a more decent look on the scoreboard, which at that stage read 2-16 to 1-9 in Mayo's favour.
Last year's top scorer in the championship, Cillian O'Connor, didn't score from play but showed just how valuable he is from dead balls, scoring the last four points from frees that in truth he never looked like missing.
So a decent start for Mayo, who continue their Division 2 campaign away to Westmeath next Saturday afternoon.
The Mayo team was: R. Hennelly; E. Hession, O. Mullin (0-1), L. Keegan; M. Plunkett (0-1), P. Durcan, R. Brickenden; M. Ruane (0-2), D. O'Connor (0-1); F. McDonagh (0-1), K. McLoughlin, J. Flynn (0-1), T. Conroy (1-3), C. O'Connor (0-8), R. O'Donoghue (1-1). Subs used: E. McLaughlin (0-1), B. Walsh (0-1), C. Loftus, S. Coen, A. Orme, C. Boyle.
The Down team lined out as follows: R. Burns; G. Collins, G. McGovern, P. Murdock; P. Laverty, K. McKernan, J. Flynn; R. McEvoy, C. Mooney; C. Doherty, C. Poland, D. Guinness (0-1); B. O'Hagan (0-5), J. Guinness (0-1), C. Quinn (0-2). Subs used: D. O'Hagan, O. McCabe, B. McArdle, L. Middleton, P. Devlin (0-1), L. Kerr (0-1), S. McConville (1-0).
*See the print edition of The Connaught Telegraph on Tuesday for a full report on and reaction to today's game.