Sligo & Leitrim 1
HOW often will a team win 4-1 and still leave the pitch dejected? Not very often would probably be the educated guess but it happened on Sunday in Milebush when the Mayo team were left wondering about what might have been after their comprehensively deserving win over Sligo.
One more goal would have carried Mayo through the group stages and despite carving out a whole host of good openings, the goal that would have given Mayo the four goal difference that they required, never materialised.
It was crushingly disappointing for the home team who played with a huge amount of vigour and dash, but how they must have rued their setback in Roscommon in the opening round of the competition.
Ultimately, that defeat was the difference between advancing and waiting another twelve months to play in the competition. Level on points and goal difference with Roscommon after Sunday’s result, Mayo exited because of their defeat in that opening game. Such fine lines.
Early on, it was clear that the Mayo attack, given the right service, had the better of the visiting defence.
Manager, Michael Hutton, had picked an adventurous line-up with the triumvirate of Michael Duffy, Ronan O’Boyle and Benny Lavelle, all starting.
Lavelle showed what he was capable of after just nine minutes when he got on the end of a Ger O’Boyle pass and totally outpaced the Sligo defence before rounding Tony Clarke and rolling the ball into the empty net.
Suddenly that four-goal margin of victory started to feel a touch more realistic.
It should have been even more so shortly afterwards but Michael Duffy and Ger O’Boyle both shot wide from good positions. Then, only the width of a post denied O’Boyle from heading a Danny Broderick into the net after 34 minutes.
Mayo had bossed that first half with the midfield quartet of Ger O’Boyle, Danny Scahill, Danny Broderick and Mick Duffy ensuring that the bulk of play kept flowing in the direction of the Sligo goal.
Yet, Sligo had some clever footballers and towards the end of the half they emerged from their shell and created some quite good openings.
Keith Nibbs went close with a fine left-footed effort that was well saved by Neil McNicholas while their impressive left back, Paddy Conlon, fired a ball across the six yard box that had ‘bury me’ written all over for it. Fortunately for Mayo, no one did.
The second half was only a few minutes old when Danny Broderick set up Benny Lavelle but somehow the Ballina man didn’t score from around six yards and almost immediately, Sligo drove forward and Gareth Kelly breathed new life into their effort when he tapped home from ten yards after a Gary Rooney pass had split the home defence wide open.
Mayo kept at it though. Declan Flynn, an unlikely candidate for scorer of ‘goal of the year’ fired in a wonderful effort that Clarke just about scrambled over his bar. That was after 55 minutes and a minute or so later, Mick Duffy headed a Danny Scahill cross into the hands of the ‘keeper.
Soon Hutton introduced Brian Gallagher from Claremorris and it wasn’t long before he was making a nuisance of himself.
Attempting to convert a Benny Lavelle cross, he was fouled. Danny Scahill scored from the spot and Gary Rooney was shown a red card by the referee, Damian McGrath.
Enlivened, Mayo went for the jugular. Caution gave way to all out attack and with twelve minutes to go Mick Duffy engineered space for himself inside the penalty area before firing a bullet to the net.
Three one and with five minutes of injury time to play, suddenly there was genuine belief inside Milebush. Neil McNicholas launched a long ball forward and as most people gave it up, Brian Gallagher chased the lost cause; won it and rolled it into the net.
Sligo were incandescent with rage as they felt that Gallagher had fouled their ‘keeper. In the fallout, their defender, Clive Sommers, saw red.
Mayo still needed another goal though to see them through. Sadly, it didn’t come and they exited the competition. But they must have left Milebush on Sunday evening imbued with a sense of pride and belonging.
It was a wonderful effort but it fell just short.
N McNicholas (Swinford); Stephen Ryan (Castlebar Celtic), Andrew Neary (Castlebar Celtic); Joe Lawless (Westport United); Declan Flynn (Castlebar Celtic); Danny Scahill (Westport United); Michael Duffy (Ballina Town), Gerard O’Boyle (Castlebar Celtic), Benny Lavelle (Ballina Town), Ronan O’Boyle (Castlebar Celtic), Danny Broderick (Claremorris).
Subs: Brian Gallagher (Claremorris) for Broderick; Brian McHale (Bangor Hibs) for Scahill; Ross Kenny (Ballina Town) for R O’Boyle.
T Clarke; D Scanlon, P Conlon, J Gaffney, C Sommers, G Rooney, C Jinks, R McLaughlin, K Nibbs, G Kelly, C Brick.
Subs: A Murrin for Brick; G Brennan for Gaffney; G O’Boyle for Jinks.
Referee: D McGrath