Freeman makes students pay the penalty
IT Sligo 1-11
THE fact that it is only January and his line-up was largely experimental could allow James Horan some latitude in reflecting on Sunday’s clash in rain-soaked Bekan, but the Mayo manager was not impressed afterwards.
It took a late Alan Freeman penalty for Mayo to snatch a draw they scarcely deserved. That goal, in the 58th minute, was Mayo’s only score of the second half. It actually ended a scoring drought of 37 minutes since Cathal Carolan’s 21st-minute point, which tells you much of what you need to know and helps explain Horan’s attitude.
IT Sligo struck 1-9 without reply in that period to turn a worrying nine-point deficit into a three-point lead. But Mayo saved themselves when Freeman clinically dispatched the penalty after Darren Coen was fouled.
Had IT Sligo won, all the headlines would be of Ballina’s Evan Regan. Lining out at corner forward, Regan played with the determination of a man proving a point. He was let go from the Mayo squad last summer and gave those present in Bekan a demonstration of how good he can be. By the game’s end, Regan had kicked eight points, could have had a hat-trick of goals, and was a near-constant threat to the Mayo full-back line.
Yet for much of the first half, it looked like Mayo were closer to their championship peak than an IT Sligo team out in Sigerson Cup action in two weeks time. Though still fielding an experimental side, Mayo had a more experienced look than against NUI Galway, with the likes of Ger Cafferkey, Cathal Carolan, Kevin McLoughlin and Andy Moran all starting.
After Evan Regan had opened the scoring with a wonderful left-footed free into the wind from the left corner, Mayo went on a scoring spree. Darren Coen, Brian Gallagher and Kevin McLoughlin pointed before Cathal Carolan finished low to the net. Points followed from McLoughlin (two), Coen, Gallagher and Carolan, and with only a point from play by Regan in response, Mayo were 1-8 to 0-2 clear after 21 minutes.
They were full value for that with the likes of Gallagher, Jason Gibbons, Carolan, Coen and McLoughlin moving very well. But by half time, IT Sligo had started to turn things their way.
They struck their only goal after 22 minutes when Cavan man Niall Walsh converted after taking receipt of a mis-hit goal shot from Regan. The Stephenite had turned brilliantly inside the Mayo cover to create the chance and two points from Regan, one a beauty from the left corner, left IT Sligo 1-8 to 1-4 behind at the break.
The students, managed by Crossmolina man Michael Moyles, took off from where they left off in the second half. Donegal brothers Mark and Ryan McHugh pulled the strings in the half-forward line and points from Sligo’s Stephen Coen (two), Walsh and Regan had them level by the 41st minute. Three more successfully converted frees from Regan had them three clear ten minutes later. It would have been game over if Regan had found the net after 52 minutes. He beat Brendan Walsh to a through ball but his low shot was superbly, if unorthodoxly, blocked on the line by the knees of Ballaghaderreen’s Keith Rogers.
That would turn out to be crucial when Mayo, who were really struggling to create scoring chances in the second period, were awarded a penalty at the other end five minutes later. Darren Coen was fouled when trying to break through on goal and Alan Freeman confidently struck the penalty into the top right-hand corner of Alvin McCallig’s goal.
Both teams had chances to win it. IT Sligo wing back Paul Varley shot for a point but it tailed away and was well dealt with by Brendan Walsh, while Enda Varley’s shot from the left side went wide at the near post.
B Walsh; K Rogers, K Keane, G Cafferkey; B Harrison, S McHale, D Drake; J Gibbons, B Gallagher (0-2); S Kelly, C Freeman, C Carolan (1-1); K McLoughlin (0-3, 2f), D Coen (0-2, 1f), A Moran.
Subs: J Doherty for McLoughlin (26 mins, black card); C Boyle for Cafferkey (h-t); M Conroy for Moran (h-t); L Keegan for Keane (36 mins, black card), E Varley for Conroy (38 mins, inj), A Freeman (1-0) for Kelly (39 mins).
A McCallig; R Donovan, S Fee, E Flanagan; K Cawley, M McWeeney, P Varley; S O’Grady, D Geraghty; M McHugh, R McHugh, C Mulryan; E Regan (0-8, 6f), N Walsh (1-1), S Coen (0-2).
Sub used: B McQuaid for McWeeney (60 mins).
Referee: R McBrien (Leitrim)