TAKING A STAND?Mayo’s Donal Vaughan tries to hold off Monaghan’s Kieran Hughes during Sunday’s game at MacHale Park, Castlebar.?Pic: Sportsfile
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THE anticipated tight and tactical battle never materialised at a windswept MacHale Park on Sunday as Monaghan paid a heavy price for their indiscipline and Mayo returned to the top of the league table in style.
Three weeks on from their systems failure against Tyrone, the Connacht champions put 13-man Monaghan to the sword to record their eighth win over the 2013 Ulster champions in nine attempts.
Mayo’s restructured attack was far more potent with All Star Cillian O’Connor back in action, and midfield powerhouse Aidan O’Shea redeployed as a target-man at full-forward.
O’Shea finished his impressive day’s work with 1-3 from play and wreaked havoc.
Monaghan’s cause wasn’t helped by their failure to play by the rules and that attitude cost them dearly as they lost the plot, and the game, long before the end.
Their game-plan started to come apart at the seams when Stephen Gollogly was red-carded for striking in the 28th minute and it flew out the window entirely when Ryan Wylie was also sent off in the 54th minute after pushing Mark Ronaldson into the perimeter fencing through sheer frustration.
In between, Dermot Malone was shown a black card by the overworked referee, Rory Hickey, for an off-the-ball incident as Monaghan started to melt down in the face of Mayo’s relentless onslaught.
There was an edge to the game throughout and Seamus O’Shea’s afternoon also ended early after he was black carded for a trip on a Monaghan opponent late in the opening half.
The three goals from Aidan O’Shea and substitutes Alan Freeman and Mikie Sweeney that adorned Mayo’s facile victory all came in the second half, but the foundations were dug in the opening period.
Having won the toss, and electing to play with the strong breeze, Mayo played the game at a much higher tempo and with much more intensity than they had against Tyrone.
As a consequence, if they been more ruthless in their finishing they could have had at least two goals with Aidan O’Shea spurning a few chances as he started to put himself about.
But there was plenty to be getting on with; Monaghan were giving as good as they were getting in the first quarter and eased 0-5 to 0-4 up on 17 minutes when the talented Daniel McKenna clipped a neat score from play.
Mayo were in one of those moods though and, with Aidan O’Shea winning every ball that came his way in the scoring zone, and linking play cleverly, points arrived from Mark Ronaldson, Cillian O’Connor (free) and Jason Doherty to wrestle back the initiative.
Stephen Gollogly then pounced on a loose ball to open his account and pare the gap back to the bare minimum again. Three minutes later he was sent off, and the tide turned slowly but surely from there.
With All Star, Keith Higgins, deployed as the ‘free man’, Mayo upped the ante and a couple of crucial scores from Cillian O’Connor (free) and Kevin McLoughlin before the break left them 0-9 to 0-6 ahead.
Monaghan rallied briefly after the restart as Daniel McKenna and Paul Finlay both hit the target but Mayo were about to get into full stride, and they promptly rattled off 2-5 from play without reply during a dazzling fifteen minute spell.
Aidan O’Shea lashed in the opening goal on 50 minutes to propel the homeside into a 1-13 to 0-8 lead and Ryan Wylie saw red four minutes later.
Revelling in the wide open spaces, Mayo pounced for further goals from Alan Freeman and Mikie Sweeney in the 64th and 70th minutes to complete the rout.
Some supporters were long gone by the time Rory Hickey blew for full-time, plotting and planning already for the road-trip to Celtic Park in Derry next Sunday.
Three games down, four to go.
R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, K Keane, K Higgins; L Keegan, S Coen, P Durcan; S O’Shea, D Vaughan (0-1); K McLoughlin (0-1), D O’Connor (0-1), J Doherty (0-1); M Ronaldson (0-3), A O’Shea (1-3), C O’Connor (0-5, 4fs).
Subs used: D Kirby for S O'Shea (black card, 29m); C Boyle for Vaughan (inj, half-time); A Freeman (1-0) for C O'Connor (56m); M Forde for McLoughlin (60m); M Sweeney (1-0) for Ronaldson (63m); G Cafferkey for Keane (64m).
R Beggan (0-1, 1f); C Boyle, D Wylie, R Wylie; D Mone, F Kelly, K Duffy; P Finlay (0-2, 2fs), N McAdam; O Duffy, S Gollogly (0-1), R McAnespie; D Malone, K Hughes (0-2), D McKenna (0-4, 2fs).
Subs used: V Corey for K Duffy (inj, 35m); D Hughes for O Duffy (half-time); P Donaghy for D Malone (black card, 42m); K O'Connell for Kelly (50m); P Meegan (0-1, 1f) for McKenna (63m); P McGuigan for Boyle (66m).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare)