FBD Connacht League
A SECOND half goal from Jason Doherty was the difference as a more familiar-looking Mayo finished out their 2018 FBD League campaign with their first victory of the new season at James Stephens Park, Ballina.
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford sent out eight of last year’s All-Ireland final team, with both Footballer of the Year Andy Moran and Aidan O’Shea making their first competitive starts since last September’s All-Ireland Final.
In a scrappy and largely forgettable game, Mayo played with a strong breeze in the first half and they held a commanding 0-7 to 0-2 lead at the break.
Ironically, it was Cathal Corey’s Sligo who shot three poor wides before eventually getting off the mark through an Adrian Marren free after seven minutes.
Mayo found their rhythm only a minute later when Diarmuid O’Connor fired over from 30 yards with his left boot, a score that spurred Mayo into life.
Their hard-running game was troubling Sligo and six unanswered points followed through Jason Doherty (3 frees), Evan Regan (2, one free) and a long-range Paddy Durcan score.
Mayo’s half-forward line of Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea and Diarmuid O’Connor were influential throughout the first half, gathering lots of possession and holding a strong defensive line from the front.
Sligo eventually responded a minute from the short whistle when their own Stephen Coen nailed a free, but that was as good as it got for them.
The visitors made full use of the wind advantage after the turnaround as they hit five unanswered points in eight minutes.
Stephen Coen added two monsters (one from a sideline ball), along with Niall Murphy, Neil Ewing and Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch.
Mayo were slow to adapt to the breeze, and were rather fortunate to turn the ball into the net after 44 minutes when an Evan Regan free dropped short and Jason Doherty was on hand to bundle the ball into the net.
Mayo then tagged on scores from Aidan O’Shea, Jason Doherty (free) and Evan Regan (free) to maintain their lead.
Sligo kept up the pressure in front of the posts as Coen (2), Murphy and Marren (free) all pointed to keep themselves within a kick of a ball.
But Mayo held possession well in the closing stages to kill out the game.
Evan Regan also scored what was a disallowed goal for a square-ball after some nice link up play between Ballaghaderreen duo Shairoze Akram and Andy Moran right at the death.
Mayo will now turn their attentions to next Sunday’s National League opener against Monaghan in Clones.
D Clarke; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, E O’Donoghue; C Boyle, M Hall, P Durcan (0-1); J Gibbons, S Coen; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea (0-1), D O’Connor (0-1); J Doherty (1-4, 4f), E Regan (0-3, 2f), A Moran.
Subs used: F McDonagh for McLoughlin (44 mins, blood); C Loftus for O’Connor (54 mins); S Akram for Durcan (58 mins); S Nally for Coen (59 mins); G McDonagh for Gibbons (64 mins); F McDonagh for Doherty (66 mins).
A Devaney; M Gordon, L Nicholson, E McGuinness; K Cawley, D Cummins, G O’Kelly-Lynch (0-1); J Clarke, P O’Connor; N Ewing (0-1), F Cawley, A Marren (0-2, 2f); S Coen (0-5, 3f), P Hughes, K Cawley.
Subs used: P Kilcoyne for Cummins (20 mins, inj); S Carrabine for Cawley (34 mins); R Donovan for Nicholson (35 mins); N Murphy (0-2) for O’Connor (35 mins); C Breheny for Clarke (58 mins); L Gaughan for Cawley (59 mins).
Referee: E O’Grady (Leitrim)