MAYO will be returning to Croke Park sooner than expected and will take on Kerry in the National League final on Sunday next.
It finished Mayo 3-15, Monaghan 1-18 before a crowd of 13,287 at Elverys MacHale Park today, on a windy but sunny afternoon, the win for Mayo, along with Tyrone beating Galway, securing their league final appearance.
Considering manager James Horan made six changes from the side which defeated Kerry last week, this was a superb win, although Mayo did wobble in the second half and needed a third goal to finally close out a battling Monaghan side.
The third goal was really the killer one for Monaghan as it came at a stage in the game when they had pared back the interval deficit of seven points to just three - 2-10 to 1-10.
A superb pass from Diarmuid O’Connor set up Brian Reape for a slam-dunk finish but the Monaghan goalkeeper produced a brilliant reflex save, only to see the ball come off a defender for what effectively was an OG.
A fisted point from Brendan Harrison had Mayo back in control by 3-11 to 1-10 but Monaghan, to their credit, never gave up the fight, with Conor McManus and Jack McCarron scoring 0-15 - McManus nailing 0-8 - and midfielder Darren Hughes producing their only goal, which came 14 minutes into the second half.
Mayo put themselves in a very strong position at the end of the first half thanks to two superb strikes from Kevin McLoughlin, the first on seven minutes after he was put through by Darren Coen, and on 33 minutes Aidan O’Shea was the provider as McLoughlin hit the roof of the net with a cracker.
It left Mayo well in control at half-time, leading by 2-7 0-6, four of those Monaghan points coming from Jack McCarron, although the visitors will feel they should have been awarded a penalty when Conor McManus appeared to be taken down by Brendan Harrison but referee Derek O’Mahony waved play on.
With news filtering through that Tyrone had hit the front against 14-man Galway there was a huge cheer from the crowd when Mayo deservedly clung on for a win that sees them back in Croke Park perhaps a late sooner than James Horan expected, and facing a Kerry team they have already beaten in the league this year.
Mayo: D. Clarke, S. Coen, B. Harrison (0-1), E. O'Donoghue, P. Durcan, C. Barrett, J. McCormack (0-1), M. Ruane, A. O'Shea (0-1), F. Boland (0-3), J. Doherty (0-2, 1f), D. O’Connor (0-1), K. McLoughlin (2-2), D. Coen (0-1), C. Diskin.
Subs used: B. Reape (1-1) for Diskin (inj, 30), R. Hennelly (0-1, 1f) for Clarke (34), J. Gibbons for Ruane (55, inj), D. Vaughan (0-1) for McCormack (inj, 65), D. Drake for O’Donoghue (65), J. Carr for D. Coen (67).
Monaghan: R. Began (0-1, 1f), B. Kenny, D. Wylie, R. Wylie, K. O’Connell, C. Boyle, K. Duffy, D. Hughes (1-0), N. McAdam, R. McAnespie (0-1), D. Malone, F. Kelly, C. McCarthy (0-1), J. McCarron (0-7, 2f)), C. McManus (0-8, 6f).
Subs sued: S. O’Hanlon for D. Malone, O. Duffy for McCarthy.
Referee: D. O’Mahoney (Tipperary).