TOUR DE FORCE Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor in action against Cathal McNally of Kildare in Castlebar last night. Pic: Sportsfile
Football All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifier
Rochford looking for ‘seventy minute performance’
FAVOURITES Mayo made home advantage count for the second week in a row as they booked their place in the last twelve of the All-Ireland series at sun-splashed MacHale Park on Saturday evening.
Ballintubber’s Diarmuid O’Connor stole the show with another stunning display, the 21 year-old nailing 1-5 during a man of the match performance.
But despite their comfortable nine points victory, Mayo manager Stephen Rochford believes his team left plenty of room for improvement ahead of a clash with either the beaten Leinster or Ulster finalists in two weeks’ time.
“I think the challenge for us, coming up against a provincial loser and the quality that will be there, is to turn our performance into a 70 minute consistent performance. “We're probably at 40 to 45 minutes [now] and I don't think that'll be good enough against the level of opposition that we could potentially be playing next.”
In front of a big home crowd of 14,557, Mayo put the Lilywhites to the sword quite comfortably in the end with first half goals from Evan Regan and O’Connor scuppering Kildare’s plans of an ambush.
The Lilywhites had only trailed by a point midway through the opening period as they recovered from a slow start and started to ask Mayo a few questions.
However, the visitors ended up being ten points down (2-9 to 0-5) by the break as Mayo’s pace and power opened them up in the second quarter.
Mayo started like they meant business and were four points up after only twelve minutes with Diarmuid O’Connor shooting three brilliant long-range scores to get the show on the road.
Kildare started to chip away at the deficit though with Cathal McNally, Morgan O’Flaherty and Neil Flynn all on target to close the gap to the minimum.
But just as the game seemed to developing into a close affair, Mayo pounced for two goals in quick succession with Evan Regan striking first from close range on 29 minutes.
Four minutes later Diarmuid O’Connor raced through the Kildare backline and finished past Mark Donnellan after a mazy run had bamboozled a handful of defenders.
Regan also tacked on a few points to drive Mayo’s advantage home, and a shellshocked Kildare were on the ropes by the break.
Substitute Fionn Dowling did his best to kickstart a revival with three points from play in that second period, but his colleagues found it difficult to penetrate a well-organised Mayo backline.
Sweeper Kevin McLoughlin frustrated Kildare’s long ball efforts time and again, while Colm Boyle also put in another big shift until being black carded for a deliberate pull down in the closing stages.
All Star full-forward Aidan O’Shea also did a stint at full-back in the final quarter as Kildare bombarded Mayo’s defences without any great reward.
At the other end, Mayo did enough to stay out of reach and late points from subsitutes Jason Doherty (2), Alan Freeman and Conor O’Shea sealed the deal.
Next up for Stephen Rochford’s Mayo is a clash with one of the beaten teams from today’s Ulster and Leinster championship deciders in two weeks’ time.
D Clarke; B Harrison, K Keane, K Higgins (0-1); L Keegan, C Boyle, P Durcan (0-1); S O’Shea, D Vaughan; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, D O’Connor (1-5); E Regan (1-4, 1f), A Moran, C O’Connor (0-2, 2fs).
Subs used: S Coen for Keane (inj, 41); A Dillon for Moran (49); B Moran for Boyle (black card, 52); J Doherty (0-2) for Harrison (62); A Freeman (0-1) for Regan (64); C O’Shea (0-1) for D O’Connor (69).
M Donnellan; C Fitzpatrick, D Hyland, O Lyons; J Byrne (0-1), E Doyle, E Bolton; T Moolick, K Feely; M O’Flaherty (0-2), F Conway, E O’Flaherty; C McNally (0-1), N Kelly, N Flynn (0-5, 2fs, ‘45).
Subs used: F Dowling (0-3) for M O’Flaherty (half-time); K Cribben (0-1) for Bolton (half-time); A Smith (0-1, 1f) for E O’Flaherty (44); E Callaghan for McNally (50); P Kelly for Fitzpatrick (61); C Healy for Kelly (68).
Referee: D O’Mahony (Tipperary)