GETTING THE HANG OF IT Mayo's Andy Moran holds up Monaghan's Darren Hughes last Sunday at McHale Park. Pic: Sportsfile
Mayo finish strongly
FOOTBALL ALLIANZ NATIONAL LEAGUE
THESE are the days that remind us why Mayo football can be as frustrating as it can be intoxicating. Why? Because this group of young men is capable of mixing it with any team in the country when the mood takes them. And, of course, they can just as easily lose their way and struggle with the basics on any given Sunday.
Last weekend we were treated to the full gamut of emotions as the homeside allowed Monaghan build up a six-point lead, twice, before recovering their composure in the final quarter to shoot a goal and eight points to save the day. Confused? Well, you should be.
“I would say that we dominated that game for twenty minutes but managed to win it,” Mayo manager John O’Mahony reckoned afterwards. “Monaghan dominated for the other fifty-five minutes.”
His assessment was as accurate as it was honest. Mayo mixed the good, bad and mediocre at McHale Park but still came away with their fifth win from six matches and they remain on course for their second NFL final in four years.
The story of the game itself is easily told. A fired-up, highly-motivated Monaghan were full value for their 0-9 to 0-3 lead after 36 minutes. Playing with the aid of the breeze, they were dominant in most sectors and picked off some eye-catching scores.
They outmuscled Mayo around the middle as Darren Hughes, Dick Clerkin and Paul Finlay set the tone while Conor McManus was a revelation at full-forward, causing Kieran Conroy problems with his pace.
After 42 minutes, the visitors were ahead by 0-13 to 1-4. They had taken Donal Vaughan’s goal four minutes into first-half injury-time on the chin, and replied with the first four points of the second half. Paul Finlay (who ended the afternoon with eight points) and the aforementioned McManus doing the damage.
It was at this stage that Mayo decided to get down to work and the tide started to turn when Aidan O’Shea drilled in his first goal of the season on 48 minutes after he had claimed Andy Moran’s ‘garryowen’ in behind his marker.
That score opened the floodgates and Monaghan were outscored by 0-7 to 0-2 from there to the finish. “Monaghan tend to push up a lot,” explained O’Mahony afterwards. “They’re really in your face but they tend to leave some space at the back if you can exploit it. It took us a while to do that but the goals were crucial.”
That second goal proved a decisive moment and, all over the field, Mayo were transformed. Liam O’Malley was outstanding in the full-back line, the half-back line of Vaughan, Howley and McLoughlin pushed forward, and Seamus O’Shea and Tom Parsons started to come into their own.
Points rained over from Conor Mortimer (free) and Kevin McLoughlin to level the match for the first time before Mark Ronaldson edged Mayo ahead in the 58th minute. Further long-range points from Enda Varley and Chris Barrett gave them breathing space.
Monaghan’s place-kicker Paul Finlay kept things interesting with a brace of late frees but the game was closed out when Andy Moran and Tom Parsons nailed scores in stoppage-time.
It had been a much different story for the vast majority of the first half. Three frees from Paul Finlay and a couple of booming place-kicks from Darren Hughes were supplemented by well-taken points from Conor McManus (2), Stephen Gollogly and Tommy Freeman as Monaghan set the tone.
However, in hindsight, Donal Vaughan’s goal in the 39th minute (with the last kick of the first half) hauled Mayo back from the brink and instead of being dead and buried, they only trailed by 1-4 to 0-9.
And the moral of the story according to John O’Mahony? “That we can battle. Whatever criticisms one might have about the display, we wore them down and stayed in the game until we got the chances. Then we closed it out. I’d regard that as progress.”
D Clarke; L O’Malley, K Conroy, K Higgins; D Vaughan (1-1), T Howley, K McLoughlin (0-1); T Parsons (0-1), S O’Shea; A Moran (0-1), A O’Shea (1-0), T Mortimer; E Varley (0-2, 1f), A Dillon (0-2, 1f), C Mortimer.
Subs used: M Ronaldson (0-2) for Dillon (inj); C Barrett (0-1) for Higgins (inj); G Cafferkey for Howley.
S Duffy; D McArdle, N McAdam, C Greenan; C Walshe, D Hughes (0-2, 1f, ‘45), D Mone; D Clerkin, P Finlay (0-8, 7fs); S Gollogly (0-1), H McElroy, K Hughes; D Malone, C McManus (0-3), T Freeman (0-1).
Subs used: C Hanratty for McElroy; V Corey for McArdle; JP Mone for Gollogly; R Woods for Malone.
Referee: R Hickey (Clare)
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