OUT IN FRONT Mayo's Barry Kelly gets the ball away despite the attention of Sligo IT's Gary Reynolds during the FBD League match in Charlestown on Sunday. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Hard to draw conclusions
IT Sligo 1-11
IT’S still very early days in the new season but any Mayo supporters searching for signs that 2010 might be ‘our’ year were likely to have left Fr O’Hara Park with mixed feelings after a makeshift team was denied a second win in the FBD Connacht League last Sunday.
With five changes from the side that started seven days earlier, Mayo were, understandably, not at their free-flowing best, but it was the lack of energy and inability to hold IT Sligo at bay that was most disappointing.
They let a four-point lead slip twice during the second half and, ultimately, paid the price as the students hit 1-2 in the final seven minutes to earn a draw that was well-deserved.
On a positive note, John O’Mahony will have been pleased with the contributions of Lee Keegan, Barry Kelly, Aidan O’Shea and Neil Douglas. It was no coincidence that this quartet were the most enthusiastic and honest of Mayo’s line-up, and all four cut quite a dash throughout.
Keegan put in a strong first half, in particular, at centre-back while Kelly covered a lot of ground after moving to midfield during the second half and used the ball well. When O’Shea was close to goal, and serviced properly, he was very good. He ended the game with 1-2 from play. Douglas also looked comfortable on his first senior start and clipped two fine points to settle his nerves.
Again, Mayo played a very direct game and hit Aidan O’Shea on the edge of the
square at every opportunity.
Luckily, he is up for it and has good hands, and he fisted over two of his trademark scores during the first half.
A couple of frees from Mark Ronaldson and a point each from Neil Douglas and Peadar Gardiner (both times after Mayo moved the ball at pace) were enough to earn the homeside a 0-6 to 0-4 lead at half-time.
By that stage, Robert Hennelly had made two smart saves to deny Seamus Ryder and Danny Cummins from close-range, but the lively Cummins (2) and Eugene Keating both hit the target to keep the students within range. Mayo full-back Alan Feeney also diverted the ball over his own crossbar for a bizarre IT Sligo point in the eleventh minute.
The second half was a much more entertaining affair. The visitors were on level terms inside three minutes and wing-back Ciaran Greene nudged them ahead for the first time in the 36th minute.
By that stage, Mayo had just six players that started against Meath last summer on the field, but they hit a purple patch that yielded 1-2 without reply in the space of six minutes. Andy Moran and Mark Ronaldson (free) hit the points with an Aidan O’Shea goal sandwiched in between.
Credit is due to Tom Parsons, Barry Kelly and Peadar Gardiner for the parts they played in the build-up while O’Shea’s role showed just how important he now is in the greater scheme of things.
Mayo led by 1-8 to 0-7 after 43 minutes, and by 1-10 to 0-9 with just ten minutes remaining. However, they were unable to close the game out and lost their shape alarmingly down the home stretch. IT Sligo just kept plugging away and Robert Hennelly was eventually beaten in the 54th minute when Gary Gaughan wriggled through and squeezed the ball to the net.
In the final, frantic minutes, Tom Parsons was sent off after receiving his second yellow card, Alan Freeman landed an inspirational point for the students, their goalkeeper, Adrian Faherty, drilled the equalising score from a ‘45, and Mark Ronaldson saw a late free to win the game drop short from 35 yards.
In truth, a draw was probably a fair result although Mayo could have won and maybe should have lost. With less than two weeks to go before the start of the National League, there is still plenty to work on.
R Hennelly; L O’Malley, A Feeney, K Higgins; P Gardiner (0-1), L Keegan, D Vaughan; T Parsons, R McGarrity; A Moran (0-1), B Kelly, T Mortimer; M Ronaldson (0-5, 5fs), A O’Shea (1-2), N Douglas (0-2).
Subs used: J Burke for Vaughan; K Walsh for Mortimer; M Sweeney for McGarrity; G McDonagh for Moran.
A Faherty (0-1, ‘45); S Boyle, D Reynolds, K Cawley; E McHugh, G Reynolds, C Greene (0-1); D Givney, E Keating (0-1); A Freeman (0-1), A Costello (0-1), S Kelly; S Coen (0-3, 2fs), S Ryder, D Cummins (0-2).
Sub used: G Gaughan (1-0) for Kelly.
Referee: F Flynn (Leitrim)