Three-in-a-row for Mayo as London are outclassed
IT was the best of times and the worst of times for London last Sunday.
They came to McHale Park with hopes and dreams of making their mark on their first Connacht Senior Final but saw them dashed by a Mayo side that have developed the knack of winning most kinds of games over the last three years.
All has changed, changed utterly in this provincial championship since London almost ambushed Mayo at Ruislip back in 2011.
So there was to be no happy, fairytale ending to London’s Connacht championship story as Mayo took care of business in their own time.
On a baking hot day, when Mayo produced a performance that was more solid than spectacular, they captured their third Connacht title in-a-row for the first time since 1950.
And we all know what happened later that particular year.
In front of a big crowd (especially considering the circumstances) of 21,274, Mayo ran in three second half goals to break London’s spirit and rack up their 44th provincial title.
This now leaves them level with Galway at the top of the roll of honour.
Three goals from super sub’ Cillian O’Connor put the gloss on a disjointed Mayo display, but that doesn’t change the fact that this game was over as a contest long before the final whistle.
To their credit, London didn’t take a step back all day, but the gap between teams that ply their trades in Division 4 and Division 1 every year was all too obvious at times.
In both quality and quantity, Mayo had the upper hand, but London lost nothing in defeat.
Mayo were far from flawless as they put their unfamiliar guests to the sword; nineteen wides and a litany of missed chances leaving the winners with plenty to work on ahead of the All-Ireland quarter-finals next month.
On a positive note, Mayo kept a clean sheet for the third game in a row as recalled goalkeeper, Rob Hennelly, came through with flying colours.
London also didn’t help their own cause with some careless shooting from close range; substitute Colin Daly missing one glorious chance to hit the net early in the second half.
As it turned out, it was goals at the other end that made all the difference.
First half strikes from Alan Freeman on ten minutes and rookie Darren Coen thirteen minutes later set Mayo on the road to victory, both of them coming after a ponderous London defence lost the ball as they attempted to work it clear of the danger area.
As a result of those two green flags, Mayo led by seven points at half-time, despite not firing on all cylinders.
London were having issues of their own up front, and managed just one point from play in that opening half. Lorcan Mulvey did tack on four frees though to keep the scoreboard moving.
Aidan O’Shea was completely dominant at midfield in the first 25 minutes but Mayo kicked a succession of wides to leave London in the game — in theory at least.
However, the arrival of Cillian O’Connor at the interval changed everything.
He managed to rack up 3-3 during his cameo appearance, including a well-taken goal from a penalty on 55 minutes.
Excellent counter-attacking moves, and some incisive support play, created the openings for O’Connor’s first two goals that were finished from close range.
By the time the Ballintubber marksman had finished his scoring spree, London’s challenge had long expired. They were eighteen points down when the dust settled.
To their credit, the Exiles kept battling away and were rewarded with a couple of late points from Padraig McGoldrick and Lorcan Mulvey that brought their fans to their feet.
This wasn’t a vintage performance from Mayo but it was more than enough for them to copperfasten their grip on the Nestor Cup.
Now for the serious business.
R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; L Keegan (0-2), K Higgins, C Boyle; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin (0-2, 1f), A Dillon, R Feeney (0-1); A Moran (0-1), A Freeman (1-2), D Coen (1-0).
Subs: C O’Connor (3-3, 1-0pen, 3fs) for D Coen (h-t); M Conroy for A Freeman (45 mins); D Vaughan for R Feeney (48 mins); E Varley for A Moran (54 mins); S McHale for G Cafferkey (60 mins).
D Traynor; P Butler, S Curran, D McGreevy; S Hannon, S Mulligan, T Gaughan; C Doyle, P Geraghty; G Crowley, D Dunleavy (0-1), C McCallion; E O’Neill, L Mulvey (0-7, 6fs), C Magee.
Subs: C Og Greene for T Gaughan (26 mins); C Daly for C Doyle (32 mins); S Kelly (0-1, 1f) for E O’Neill (44 mins); B Mitchell for C McCallion (56 mins); P McGoldrick (0-1) for D Dunleavy (66 mins).
Referee: C Lane (Cork)