LEADING THE LINE Mayo's Alan Freeman scored four points from full-forward against IT Sligo in the FBD Connacht League on Sunday.Pic: Sportsfile
Mayo finish strongly to see off IT Sligo
IT Sligo 0-6
IF the object of exercises like the FBD Connacht League is to run the rule over new talent, ease some of the experienced men back into action, and win a few games for good measure then Mayo are ticking all the boxes so far.
A blustery day in Ballina saw another experimental line-up sent into battle and a second successive routine victory keeps Mayo on course for a place in the FBD League Final.
Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly made a dozen changes to the side that beat NUI, Galway a week earlier with only Kevin Keane, Alex Corduff and Evan Regan keeping their places.
There were senior debuts in defence for Stephen Duffy (Crossmolina), Michael Hall (Breaffy) and Patrick Durcan (Castlebar) while Morgan Lyons (Ballyhaunis) and Peter Dravins (Breaffy) were handed first starts up front.
Unfortunately, despite being named to start at midfield in the match programme, Gavin Duffy’s long-awaited Mayo senior debut didn’t materialise.
It later transpired that an issue with his transfer paperwork meant he was ineligible to feature for Mayo this weekend, but Noel Connelly said he was ‘hopeful’ that the former Irish rugby international would be clear to line out next Sunday.
A strong finish saw Mayo freewheel to a straightforward nine-points victory — but the IT Sligo students were left to rue a missed penalty by Donegal’s Ryan McHugh in the 36th minute.
A neat score from Mikey Sweeney had nudged Mayo four points up just after the restart (0-8 to 0-4) and McHugh’s miss was a big blow to IT Sligo’s chances of making a game of it.
Taking their cue from this let-off, Mayo kicked on from there with the impressive Kevin McLoughlin (2), Alan Freeman (a long-distance free), Alex Corduff, Peter Dravins, Evan Regan and Mark Ronaldson all tagging on scores to wrap up the win in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 people.
IT Sligo lost centre-back Shane McManus to a black card on 43 minutes and could only add a couple of points to their meagre tally in the second period.
Mayo had led at half-time by 0-7 to 0-4 with full-forward Alan Freeman helping himself to a hat-trick of points, and Evan Regan and the fleet-footed Morgan Lyons also looking lively.
IT Sligo badly missed the services of their key forward, Evan Regan, in their attack while Ballycastle’s Micheál Forde also sat the game out due to an injury,
Martin McHugh’s side also relied far too heavily on free-taker, Cian Clinton, for scores in the opening half.
The Leitrim corner-forward kicked three of their points from dead-balls before the break with Claremorris midfielder Brian Gallagher their only scorer from play before the break.
The visitors were thrown a lifeline though six minutes after the restart when Young Footballer of the Year, Ryan McHugh, was brought down by Mayo corner-back Stephen Duffy inside the square.
However, McHugh’s resultant penalty was drilled wide of David Clarke’s goal, and Mayo never looked back.
Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly ran their bench in the last quarter as the likes of Kevin McLoughlin started to really influence the match.
Others to catch the eye were Donal Vaughan at full-back, newcomers Michael Hall, Patrick Durcan, Morgan Lyons and Peter Dravins, as well as Ballina duo Alex Corduff and Evan Regan who started their second game in a row.
All in all, however, this was a typical FBD League affair and next Sunday’s third round match with Roscommon in Castlebar should be a much better test for Mayo.
A draw would be good enough to send them through to the final of this competition after NUI, Galway beat Roscommon (0-10/0-9) on Sunday.
D Clarke; K Keane, D Vaughan, S Duffy; M Hall, K Rogers, P Durcan; A Corduff (0-1), B Moran; K McLoughlin (0-3, 1f), M Lyons (0-1), P Dravins (0-1); E Regan (0-3), A Freeman (0-4, 1f), M Sweeney (0-1).
Subs used: D McHugh for Keane; C Barrett for Durcan; J Doherty for Hall; J Gibbons for Corduff; M Ronaldson (0-1) for Sweeney.
A McCallig; S Doak, M McWeeney, D McConnon; N Crowe, S McManus, P Varley; S Henry, B Gallagher (0-1); R McHugh (0-1), E Jordan, C Mulryan; D Quinn, C Thomson, C Clinton (0-4, 4fs).
Subs used: T Taylor for Quinn; M Rock for McManus (black card); R Gallagher for McConnon; J Mannion for McCallig.
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo)