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Mayo book league final place

Mayo full-back Ger Cafferkey holds off Cork's Ciaran Sheehan last Sunday.

Mayo make hay while sun shines

Football Allianz National League
Division 1
Mayo 0-16
Cork 0-11

Mike Finnerty

On a day borrowed from high summer, Mayo treated their loyal supporters to some championship-style football and handed Cork a five-point beating after a game of two halves at Pairc Uí Chaoimh. Their reward, ironically, is a chance to do it all again in the league final at Croke Park on Sunday week next. However, Cork are unlikely to be as accommodating next time round.
The Munster champions (and many people’s favourites to win the Sam Maguire in September) lined out here with just five of the team that lost last year’s All-Ireland final. They also lost Graham Canty to injury before half-time and without the likes of Michael Shields, Anthony Lynch, John Miskella, Pearce O’Neill and Daniel Goulding were unable to bend the game to their will when the going got tough.
Instead, Mayo’s tough got going after half-time and outscored Cork by 0-9 to 0-4 during a one-sided second half. A scoring burst just after the restart saw the visitors cut loose and rattle off five points in as many minutes from Mark Ronaldson, Conor Mortimer, Alan Dillon (free) and Andy Moran, twice, to surge clear.
The likes of Liam O’Malley, Donal Vaughan, Seamus O’Shea and Alan Dillon helped to turn the screw and, up front, Aidan O’Shea tormented the experienced Derek Kavanagh. The teenage full-forward played with confidence and intelligence, held possession up cleverly, and made things happen when the ball came his way.
A lethargic and disjointed Cork, on the other hand, faded out spectacularly as the match went on and managed just four points (one from play) during the entire second half. Time will tell if this inertia was a once-off.
The first half had been a different story as the teams were level on five occasions and locked together at 0-7 apiece at the break.
Knowing they needed the right result, Mayo had started well and led by 0-4 to 0-2 after 12 minutes. They moved the ball quickly, took Cork on up front, and a well-taken score from Alan Dillon set them on their way. Aidan O’Shea also won any ball that came his way and won frees that were converted by both Dillon and Conor Mortimer.
At the other end, Cork’s experimental attack looked dangerous whenever they got possession and points from wing-forwards Fintan Goold (2) and Kevin McMahon, plus two fine frees by Donnacha O’Connor and Colm O’Neill eased them ahead for the first time after 18 minutes.
Mayo levelled through Conor Mortimer (who mixed the frustrating with the sublime as he continued his penchant for shooting from all angles) but with centre-forward Donnacha O’Connor getting on a lot of the ball, Cork were creating a plethora of opportunities. The enigmatic John Hayes took two of them, kicking two superb scores (one off either foot) to out the homeside back in front.
However, Mayo rallied again as the game began to rattle and hum; the impressive Chris Barrett driving up from corner-back, and losing Hayes in the process, to kick an inspirational long-range point. Seamus O’Shea then hammered over the equaliser a few moments later as Cork’s kick-out strategy backfired for the umpteenth time.
At the halfway mark it seemed as though Cork’s second-string outfit were sufficiently talented and motivated to make Mayo sweat for the result they needed. Instead, John O’Mahony’s team-talk inspired some collective responsibility, triggered a little urgency, and Mayo went on to play some inspired football during the third quarter. Donal Vaughan and Aidan O’Shea (2) also both finished flowing moves with good scores.
Unfortunately, Cork were unable to make a game of it in the second half and two points (both from frees) in the final 25 minutes tells its own story. Experience has taught us that they will be a much different proposition when they roll into Croke Park on Sunday, April 25.
Time will tell if Mayo can finish what they started.

D Clarke; C Barrett (0-1), G Cafferkey, L O’Malley; D Vaughan (0-1), T Howley, K McLoughlin; S O’Shea (0-1), T Parsons; A Moran (0-2), A Dillon (0-4, 3fs), T Mortimer; C Mortimer (0-4, 2fs), A O’Shea (0-2), M Ronaldson (0-1).
Subs used: P Harte for Parsons; A Freeman for Dillon.

A Quirke; J O’Sullivan, D Kavanagh, E Cotter; K O'Connor, G Spillane, B O’Regan; A Walsh, G Canty; F Goold (0-2), D O'Connor (0-3, 3fs), K McMahon (0-1); C O'Neill (0-2, 2fs), C Sheehan (0-1), J Hayes (0-2).
Subs used: N Murphy for Canty (inj); S Kiely for O’Regan; P O’Flynn for McMahon; N Galvin for Kavanagh; F Lynch for Hayes.

Referee: G Ó Conámha (Galway)

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