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Mayo make hay in the sunshine

All too easy for Mayo

Goals change game as Leitrim fade out

Mayo    4-20
Leitrim 0-10

Mike Finnerty

WE weren’t quite sure what to expect from this 28th meeting of the counties in the Connacht Championship but we certainly never envisaged spectators streaming away from the ground with twenty minutes to go last Sunday.
The final scoreline screams ‘rout’ and that was exactly what panned out as Mayo justified their outrageous favouritism by putting Leitrim to the sword at their leisure.
Their reward for this stroll in the glorious afternoon sunshine is a shot at Sligo in the provincial final next month; the first meeting of the teams at this stage of the competition since the 1997 war of attrition.
James Horan was at pains afterwards to play down Mayo’s impressive victory but there was no disguising the statistics that highlighted the gulf in class and quality that separated the teams.
Thirteen different Mayo players scored as the reigning champions clocked up 4-14 from play and held an outclassed Leitrim to just five points from play.
Barry Moran, by common consensus the man of the match, claimed 19 possessions from kick-outs on a day when he did as he wished on his home pitch.
Either side of him, aside from a slow-burning first quarter, Mayo looked fit, strong, fresh and were nothing if not professional in how they went about their work.
Such a facile and comprehensive victory seemed unlikely at the end of the first quarter with things evenly-balanced and Mayo just edging it by 0-6 to 0-5.
Leitrim had been level twice by that juncture and it had taken classy scores from Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan and Alan Dillon to keep the locals ahead of the posse.
At the other end, Emlyn Mulligan was reveling in the play-making role and kicking points for fun. One outrageous score from play stands out while his free-taking was exemplary too.
The narrative of the day changed completely though on 23 minutes when Andy Moran, Lee Keegan and Alan Freeman linked up at pace in the Mayo forward line and Freeman rounded the ‘keeper before firing the ball into the roof of the net.
Danny Geraghty then powered through to tag on a point on his debut and Mayo led by double scores.
Leitrim responded well initially with Emlyn Mulligan converting a couple of frees to keep them in touch, but Mayo were starting to get into their rhythm after eight weeks in cold storage.
There were 31 minutes on the watch when Andy Moran netted for the first time in the championship since the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final and Cillian O’Connor (free) and the marauding Barry Moran tagged on points to turn the screw.
When the half-time whistle blew, Mayo were 2-9 to 0-7 ahead and their supporters in the crowd of 14,398 were content as they basked in the good weather.
The hard work was done, and the second half turned out to be nothing more than a training spin for Mayo as Leitrim’s challenge wilted all over the field.
In the first half the challengers tackled hard, stitched together some good moves, and created a string of scoring opportunities.
However, they were brushed aside in the second period as Mayo’s defence shut up shop, Barry Moran directed operations at midfield, and Cillian O’Connor got in some free-taking practice as the incessant pressure told.
James Horan, meanwhile, pitched in five subs with Richie Feeney, Ronan McGarrity, Enda Varley and Michael Conroy all making the most of their auditions.
Conor Mortimer, however, was strangely subdued in the twenty minutes he spent on the field.
Andy Moran’s second goal on 53 minutes left Mayo ahead by 3-14 to 0-8 and some fans were halfway home when Kevin McLoughlin slammed in a fourth goal in the 70th minute.
In between, a dark day for Leitrim was compounded in the closing stages when full-back, Fabian McMorrow, was sent off for a second booking.
By that stage the Sligo manager, Kevin Walsh, had concluded his note-taking for the day and Mayo minds were already planning for Sunday, July 15.
The championship starts for real for the holders next time out.

D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins (0-1); L Keegan (0-1), D Vaughan, C Boyle; B Moran (0-1), D Geraghty (0-1); K McLoughlin (1-2), C O’Connor (0-6, 6fs), A Dillon (0-3); A Freeman (1-0), A Moran (2-0), J Doherty.
Subs used: R Feeney for Boyle; R McGarrity (0-1) for Geraghty; E Varley (0-1) for A Moran; C Mortimer (0-2, 1f) for Freeman; M Conroy (0-1) for Doherty.

C McCrann; D Beck (0-1), F McMorrow, P Maguire; C Clarke, E Williams, W McKeon; D Sweeney (0-1), S Moran; P Brennan, E Mulligan (0-7, 5fs), P McGowan; R Cox (0-1), J Glancy, A Croal.
Subs used: R Lowe for McKeon (inj); C Sheridan for S Moran; G Hickey for McGowan; B McDonald for Croal; K Conlon for Lowe.

Referee: M Higgins (Fermanagh)

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