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Mayo show true grit to kickstart campaign


EARLY EXIT Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea is shown a black card by referee Joe McQuillan against Monaghan in Clones last Sunday after only seven minutes. Pic: Sportsfile

Division 1
Mayo 2-11
Monaghan 1-12

Mike finnerty

AFTER three false starts — a sequence which included a couple of ‘moral victories’ — Mayo finally got their National League campaign up and running last Sunday.
The fact that another hell-for-leather contest was only settled in the dying minutes by a couple of huge long-range Rob Hennelly frees will not worry Mayo this week.
What was important was the result, the league points.
Nothing else mattered.  
Their first victory of consequence since last August’s All-Ireland quarter-final win over Donegal was fashioned from a manic intensity, ferocious work-rate and boundless energy.
They also rolled out a defensive system that was designed with Conor McManus and his supporting cast in mind, and with Ger Cafferkey putting the shackles on Monaghan’s talisman, everything else eventually fell into place.
Sure, the first fifteen minutes didn’t exactly go smoothly as Mayo’s new-look backline tried to get their bearings, but the fact that Monaghan failed to score from play after the 22nd minute of the game underlines just how hard Mayo made it for the locals.
The individual brilliance of the aforementioned Cafferkey, Colm Boyle and Diarmuid O’Connor will feature prominently in Mayo’s analysis of ‘their best bits’ this week, but this result was chiselled from a collective effort.
Everyone pulled their weight — with the obvious exception of Aidan O’Shea who had barely broken a sweat when he was shown a very debatable black card for a clumsy, high tackle in the seventh minute.
Lee Keegan joined his team-mate in the Mayo dugout midway through the second half when Joe McQuillan flashed him a black card for a deliberate pulldown.
But Mayo responded to these adversities with a resilience and a positivity that augurs well for the months ahead.
They also met their uncertain start head-on; rolling up their sleeves and getting down to work after Conor McManus pushed Monaghan 1-2 to 0-2 ahead on 12 minutes.
The All Star’s goal came from a penalty rebound after Rob Hennelly had saved the local hero’s initial effort, and Mayo delivered their riposte soon after.
There seemed to be very little danger when Jason Doherty and Conor Loftus both ran to try and gather a punted pass from Colm Boyle around 35 yards from goal.
But when the ball slipped through Doherty’s hands, Loftus reacted quickest to gather possession and sprint away from the flat-footed defenders before finishing low and hard under Rory Beggan.
The sides were level for the third time, and the die was cast.
A breathless and frantic game duly unfolded — Monaghan tacking on three unanswered points to open up some daylight again by the 22nd minute.
Mayo’s attack was finding it hard to make inroads against Monaghan’s defensive screen without Aidan O’Shea’s presence, while Malachy O’Rourke’s counter-attacking game was allowing his team to open Mayo up at the other end.
Slowly and surely though Mayo got to grips with Monaghan’s runners and movement, and they started to hit their own stride.
What followed was a twenty-five minute spell either side of half-time where Mayo rattled off 1-5 without response as Diarmuid O’Connor, Conor O’Shea, Evan Regan and Jason Doherty all nailed points before O’Connor pounced for his second goal in as many games.
There were six minutes on the clock in the second half when the Ballintubber linkman toe-poked a long delivery into the Monaghan net and propelled Mayo ahead by 2-7 to 1-5.
In a game of inches, Mayo had taken a mile.
However, Monaghan have learned better than most how to win every sort of game over the last few years — even when they’re not firing on all cylinders.
And sure enough,  without scoring a single point from play during the second half, Monaghan chipped away at the deficit through Conor McManus frees, six of them in all, and a ’45 from Rory Beggan.
The sides were level for the fifth time with 65 minutes played, and it looked like nobody would give in.
All bets were off during a frenetic last ten minutes as both teams went in search of the matchwinning scores, but Mayo managed to engineer two long-range opportunities for their deadball specialist, Hennelly.
True to recent form, he nailed both with authority to nudge Mayo over the line with just enough to spare in the end.
Now it’s all to play for again with three games to go.

R Hennelly (0-2, 2fs); G Cafferkey, B Harrison, L Keegan; M Hall, C Boyle, S Nally; S O’Shea, T Parsons; D O’Connor (1-1), K McLoughlin (0-2), C O’Shea (0-2); E Regan (0-3, 2fs), A O’Shea, C Loftus (1-0).
Subs: J Doherty (0-1) for A O’Shea (10, black card); M Sweeney for Loftus (45); D Vaughan for Keegan (52, black card); C Barrett for Nally (57); J Gibbons for C O’Shea (65); A Moran for Regan (66).

R Beggan (0-1, ‘45); C Walsh, D Wylie, R Wylie; K Duffy, N McAdam, F Kelly (0-1); K O’Connell, D Hughes; O Duffy, D Malone, T Kerr (0-1); S Carey (0-1), D McKenna, C McManus (1-8, 8fs).
Subs used: R McAnespie for O Duffy (HT); B McGinn for Malone (45); C Boyle for K Duffy (46); C McCarthy for McKenna (58).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)

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