Onwards and upwards
Goals make difference as Mayo make a move
ON a big weekend for the Mayo GAA fraternity, the county’s senior footballers got things off to a positive start as they clocked up their third successive league win in some style at MacHale Park, Castlebar on Sunday.
Around 9,000 people turned out to see a game that had very little rhyme or reason to it, and eventually finished in a fully-deserved victory for Mayo as they lowered the colours of a previously-unbeaten Cork outfit.
The league leaders had started the game in whirlwind fashion and finished like a train too; but in between they seemed to lose their bearings, and allowed Mayo to take the initiative.
In hindsight, while Mayo also allowed their standards to slip in the final quarter, they played some scintillating football during their time in the ascendancy.
Their high-octane, fast-break style of play had Cork in dire straits and once Aidan O’Shea and Jason Gibbons secured control of the midfield exchanges, everything just fell into place.
Jason Doherty’s goal two minutes into first half injury time was one for his scrapbook, and meant Mayo had turned a five point deficit into a six point lead over the course of 25 sensational minutes.
Two more spectacular goals from Alan Freeman and Gibbons in the 48th and 60th minutes wrapped the points up for the homeside, although Cork did take the lop-sided look off the scoreline with a late blitz that yielded 2-5 in the last quarter.
Mayo actually led by 3-12 to 0-9 ahead when Gibbons’ thunderbolt hit the net; Cork were a beaten docket at that stage.
The visitors had been run ragged by Mayo’s ‘pass and move’ approach with half-backs, midfielders and attackers all combining to cut Cork’s backline open, time and again.
“We’re not far off,” said James Horan afterwards when asked about Mayo’s current form. “We’d like to be more consistent in games, we’re a little bit up and down. We can be very good and very bad, but we’re not far off where we need to be.
“We were very good at times. For Jason Doherty’s goal, the pace and movement that he came in on that was frightening. “When we do that we’re dangerous. It’s just doing that for as long as we can, as often as we can.
“The big concern is the amount of goals we’re giving away. That’s something we need to keep chipping away at.”
Early on it looked like Brian Cuthbert’s side were going to put on an exhibition, racing into a 0-5 to no score lead after twelve minutes with Brian Hurley (3) and Donnacha O’Connor (2, one free) posting a string of audacious scores.
But once Mayo settled into their stride they assumed complete control, of both the midfield battleground and the game itself, and the issue was beyond doubt long before the end.
Mayo wiped out the early deficit with five unanswered points in six minutes from the marauding Jason Gibbons, Cillian O’Connor (free), Kevin McLoughlin, Lee Keegan and Aidan O’Shea.
But it was a brilliant cameo from Jason Doherty just before the interval that helped to break Cork’s spirit; the wing-forward pilfered 1-2 in ten minutes to put Mayo in the box seat at half-time. They led by 1-9 to 0-6 at that stage.
Cork had fallen twelve points behind, midway through the second half, when they finally started to play again.
Sub’ John O’Rourke fired in a goal on 56 minutes that sparked a mini-revival but poor shooting spoiled some decent approach work.
Cillian O’Connor’s goal on 61 minutes was Mayo’s only score of the last twenty minutes and there was no doubt that the result was too close for comfort in the end.
Many of the crowd had already left when Cork’s Brian Hurley grabbed a well-taken consolation goal in stoppage-time, but it should serve as a note of caution for Mayo in the future.
A late fade-out certainly wouldn’t be good enough to beat Dublin in Saturday week’s All-Ireland Final rematch at Croke Park. Six months on from their last meeting, it should be worth waiting for.
R Hennelly; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, S McHale; L Keegan (0-1), D Vaughan, C Boyle; A O’Shea (0-1), J Gibbons (1-1); K McLoughlin (0-4, 1f), J Doherty (1-3), K Higgins; M Sweeney, A Freeman (1-0), C O’Connor (1-2).
Subs used: S O’Shea for A O’Shea (48), B Gallagher for Higgins (50), D Drake for McHale (52), D Coen for Freeman (55), T Parsons for Gibbons (60), E Varley for Sweeney (64).
K O’Halloran; M Shields, E Cadogan, K Crowley; C Dorman, T Clancy (Clonakilty), A Cronin; A O’Sullivan, A Walsh (0-3); C O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan, T Clancy (Fermoy); C O’Neill (0-1, ’45), B Hurley (1-5, 1fs), D O’Connor (0-3, 1f).
Subs used: M Collins (0-1) for O’Neill (half-time), J O’Rourke (1-0) for Clancy (Fermoy, half-time), J Loughrey for Crowley (40), F Goold for O’Connor (44), B O’Driscoll for Cadogan (47, inj), J Hayes (0-1, 1f) for Goold (black card, 58).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare)