TIGHT MARKING Mayo’s Cian Costello tries to past NUI, Galway’s Ruairi Greene and Matt Barrett during Sunday’s FBD League match in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile
NUI, Galway 1-21
THE Mayo side that lined out in MacHale Park last Sunday afternoon was unrecognisable from last season, and we’re unlikely to see them together again too often.
So the result was not one that Stephen Rochford, or indeed anyone, will lose sleep over.
With 27 members of Mayo’s 2016 squad away on a team holiday in South Africa, eleven of the first 15 were making their starting debuts as NUI, Galway clocked up their first win over Mayo in this competition for eight years.
Rory Byrne, Niall McManamon, Ray O’Malley, Donie Newcombe, Brian McDermott, Michael Plunkett, Fionn McDonagh, Cian Costello, Fergal Boland and Liam Irwin made up the long list of debutants. It was also a first start for Brian Reape.
Captain Shane Nally was the only man with championship minutes from last year in action.
The good crowd who turned out certainly got their money’s worth in terms of scores – 40 to be exact – over the course of the 70 minutes. And it could have been one more had Mayo substitute James Durcan not had his goal-bound effort saved by Tadgh O’Malley in the dying seconds.
Neil Douglas lined out at full-forward for Mayo after his impressive scoring exploits in last year’s club championship returned 1-2, but it wasn’t his most prolific performance in front of the posts.
His team-mate Danny Kirby impressed in midfield and also gave Rochford, Tony McEntee and Peter Burke something to think about.
Kirby was also the first Mayo player to claim a ‘mark’ in the game, although the new rule caused plenty of confusion in the press-box.
All-Ireland under-21 winner Fergal Boland was another noteworthy performer, returning four points from play in an industrious display, along with under-21 team-mate Brian Reape, who showed glimpses of his potential.
Castlebar Mitchels defender Ray O’Malley – given the unenviable task of trying to curtail Galway star Damien Comer – had a debut he would rather forget after he was dismissed for a second yellow card 15 minutes into the second half.
Arguably the most impressive Mayo man on the field lined out for the opposition, as Adam Gallagher of Mayo Gaels returned nine points for Maurice Sheridan’s well-drilled outfit.
Nothing separated the sides when the short whistle sounded as the scoreboard read 2-7 to 0-13.
Mayo’s first goal came after 21 minutes as Douglas was brought down after Cian Costello intercepted a stray kick-out and ‘Dougie’ made no mistake with the resultant penalty.
Kirby added the second goal eight minutes later after a neat ‘one-two’ with Boland left him with only the ’keeper to beat.
Points from Boland (two), Liam Irwin (two, including one free), Brian Reape, Fionn McDonagh and Douglas made up the rest of Mayo’s first-half tally.
The students responded with an excellent display of distance shooting. Points from Gallagher (four, two frees), Enda Tierney (three), Damien Comer (three), Matt McMcClean, Kieran Molloy and Michael Daly kept them flowing.
The excellent Damien Comer put his side in a commanding 1-17 to 2-10 lead after 46 minutes when his powerful run ended with the ball hitting Rory Byrne’s net.
Gallagher (two frees) and Daly had pointed before that, while Irwin (free) and two points from Mayo under-21 Brian Reape left Mayo with work to do.
Things went from bad to worse for Mayo when O’Malley was dismissed soon after.
Shane Nally fired over two long-range scores in the space of as many minutes and Boland added one soon after, although a goal looked on.
Fionán Duffy raised a white flag with his first touch of the ball after coming on as a substitute, with Boland and Douglas (free) completing the scoring for Mayo.
But Gallagher (two, including one free), Comer and Daly all pointed during that spell to keep their students in front.
Another bunch of students, IT Sligo, are next up for Mayo in Ballina next Sunday.
T O’Malley; S Brennan, J Kennedy, A O’Connor; K Molloy (0-1), R Greene; E Boland; M Barrett, E Tierney (0-3); S Conroy, M Daly (0-3), A Gallagher (0-9, 6f); M McClean (0-1), D Comer (1-4), O Gallagher.
Subs used: J Donoghue for Kennedy (35 mins); A McCormack for Boland (40 mins); K Quinn for McClean (55 mins); D McCormack for Barrett (67 mins).
R Byrne; N McManamon, R O’Malley, D Newcombe; B McDermott, E O’Reilly, M Plunkett; S Nally (0-2), D Kirby (1-0); F McDonagh (0-1), C Costello, F Boland (0-4); L Irwin (0-3, 3f), N Douglas (1-2, 1 pen, 1f); B Reape (0-3).
Subs used: J Forkan for Costello (61 mins); F Duffy (0-1) for Reape (64 mins); J McCormack for McDonagh (67 mins); D Cannon for McDermott (68 mins); TJ Byrne for O’Reilly (70 mins).
Referee: Barry Judge (Sligo)