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Revenge served cold by Mayo against Donegal


Revenge served cold

Rare win over Donegal puts Mayo in the mix

Division 1
Mayo 1-10
Donegal 0-9

Mike Finnerty

EVERYBODY with a vested interest in the fortunes of the Mayo senior footballers needed this performance and that result.
Especially the loyal, faithful, long-suffering (and freezing) supporters who turned out in their thousands again at McHale Park last Sunday in search of reasons to be cheerful and optimistic about Mayo’s chances of making an impression on Championship 2013. They left as relieved as they were frozen to the marrow.
Ending the county’s worst run of league defeats since 1994 was the main objective, and a first win over Donegal in seven attempts over the course of the last eight seasons has been achieved.
However, it was the manner of the performance and the noticeable improvement in attitude and application from recent outings that caught the eye more than anything else.
Collectively, and individually, Mayo were better and the fact that they matched Donegal, the All-Ireland champions, in terms of work-rate and endeavour for long spells before eventually wearing them down is a positive worth noting.
It also augurs well for Mayo’s trip to Cork on Sunday week next when another win will not only safeguard their top-flight status for another year, but it may also catapult James Horan’s team into the semi-finals.
In the end, Michael Conroy’s 47th minute goal (Mayo’s first from a forward since the Davitts dynamo netted against Down in the All-Ireland quarter-final last August) transpired to be the watershed moment.
It came after a typically searing burst upfield from Keith Higgins (who looked every inch an All Star all afternoon) and an incisive pass that allowed his first cousin Conroy to volley a ground-shot into the net off Paul Durcan’s post.
The crowd roared their approval to signal the end of the goal drought.
Driven on by an inspirational performance from towering midfielder Barry Moran, with no little help from his new partner, Seamus O’Shea, Mayo played with a style and a purpose that has been conspicuous by its absence in recent weeks.
Their display also bristled with intensity and a well-organised and disciplined defence restricted Donegal’s sharpshooters, Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden, to just three points from play between them.
All six backs worked effectively as a unit with Tom Cunniffe deputizing efficiently for the injured Donal Vaughan, and Colm Boyle’s tenacity setting the tone from the outset.
Early on Mayo were a little uncertain, as Donegal eased into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead with Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden leading the line as usual.
Slowly but surely, however, Mayo settled and with Cillian O’Connor on song from frees, posting four fine scores, five points without reply meant Mayo led by 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time.
Jim McGuinness admitted afterwards that his team surrendered possession of the ball on nine occasions to Mayo in that first half due to unforced errors.
However, he neglected to mention how many times sheer pressure from willing and able tacklers like Chris Barrett, Colm Boyle, Kevin McLoughlin and Cathal Carolan won possession back for Mayo.
They forced turnovers like they were on overtime all day long.
Donegal were never going to roll over, despite their inability to inflict their game on to Mayo a lá last September, but they did level the game for the third time with quickfire scores from Marty O’Reilly and Colm McFadden after the restart.
But Mayo’s goal changed everything.
The confidence garnered from the score seemed to spread through the team within minutes and they continued to hunt in packs, press forward, and do most of the basics right.
In truth, not unlike Donegal last season in terms of their approach but Mayo wanted this one more and they finished with a flourish, outscoring their guests by four points to two down the home straight.
Colm Boyle and Jason Doherty both hit the target before Enda Varley enhanced his reputation as an ‘impact sub’ with two stylish points that made the game safe.
Both sides finished the match with fourteen men after Donegal’s Anthony Thompson and Mayo’s Jason Doherty were both dismissed in the final quarter by referee Marty Duffy after being booked twice.
But the red cards were merely footnotes on a day when Mayo got back to winning ways, and not before time.
The immediate future is now full of possibilities ahead of a trip to Cork on Sunday week next.

D Clarke; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, T Cunniffe , C Boyle (0-1); B Moran, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin (0-2, 1f), A O’Shea, C Carolan; C O’Connor (0-5, 4fs), J Doherty, M Conroy (1-0).
Subs used: R Feeney for O’Connor (47m); D Vaughan for Higgins (inj, 59m); E Varley (0-2) for Conroy (63m); B Gallagher for S O’Shea (64m).

P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; D Walsh, F McGlynn, A Thompson; N Gallagher, R Kavanagh (0-1); R Bradley, L Mcloone, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy (0-3, 2fs), C McFadden (0-3, 1f).
Subs used: R Wherity for Walsh (23m); R McHugh (0-1) for McLoone (HT); M O’Reilly (0-1) for Bradley (HT); R Bradley for N McGee (inj, 46m); M McElhinney for Wherity (60m).

Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)