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Mayo up for first challenge


ON THE BALL Mayo’s Jack Fallon is faced by Sligo’s Evan Lyons during the Mindspace Mayo challenge match at James Stephen’s Park in Ballina yesterday (Monday). Pic: Sportsfile

Mayo 1-20
Sligo 1-10

Mike Finnerty

THEY came in their droves to see a Mayo team in action for the first time in more than six months and, for the most part, the loyal and long-suffering die-hard supporters weren’t disappointed.
Of course, a charity challenge match on the second day of the New Year — against a Sligo team that will be operating in Division Four of the National League — was never going to throw up any concrete facts, but there were plenty of reasons for Mayo fans to be optimistic.
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for their Sligo counterparts.
Tony McEntee described his team’s display as ‘quite poor’ and that was putting it mildly. Suffice to say, last year’s Tailteann Cup semi-finalists have a lot of work to do before they visit London for their Connacht championship opener in 13 weeks’ time.
That is the same weekend as Mayo will welcome Roscommon to Castlebar; a date that will have been circled in Kevin McStay’s diary since the championship draw was made.
Yesterday, we got our first brief glimpses of what Mayo might look like under new management. It was impressive at times.
Afterwards, McStay said he was most pleased by things like ‘attitude’, ‘application’ and ‘commitment’.
Those aspects of Mayo’s play were most obvious in the opening half, and especially in the first five minutes, as pressed Sligo high and hard and rattled off five points in as many minutes.
This ‘full court press’ approach left Sligo dazed and confused.
Mattie Ruane, Jordan Flynn, Conor McStay, James Carr and Jack Carney all hit the target during that early blitz, with some supporters missing out as they tried to purchase and download their match tickets outside the ground.
Some of them were on the terraces though in time to see Flynn, Diarmuid O’Connor and Stephen Coen combine to set up Conor McStay for a deftly-taken goal on 14 minutes.
At 1-5 to 0-0, the writing was already on the wall for Sligo.
David Quinn’s free a couple of minutes later finally opened their account, but the visitors were way off the pace all over the field.
Mayo’s pre-season training has obviously gone well, judging by the way the likes of Ruane, O’Connor, Flynn and Jack Carney were moving, while McStay’s movement and trickery made him a constant threat.
It was 1-9 to 0-3 at half-time and the talk among the supporters had turned to topics like ‘The Christmas’, ‘The Covid’ and the presence of Oisin Mullin in the crowd.
The second half was a largely disjointed and uneventful affair.
Both Kevin McStay and Tony McEntee used the opportunity to run their benches — for very different reasons — and the likes of Fenton Kelly (Davitts), Ciaran Boland (Ballina Stephenites), Aaron McDonnell (Ballinrobe), Alfie Morrison (Louisburgh), Jack Fallon (Mayo Gaels) and Joe Tuohy (Castlebar Mitchels) were given their first tastes of senior football.
Sligo had fallen eleven points behind when substitute Donal Conlon somehow managed to knock the ball out of Colm Reape’s hands and over the goal-line in the 45th minute.
It was a rare blot on Mayo’s copybook on the day, and the Knockmore goalkeeper will be disappointed that he didn’t deal better with David Quinn’s high delivery in the first place.
In any event, Mayo were unfazed by the concession of the goal and they hit back with four unanswered points from Jack Coyne, Bob Tuohy (mark), James Carr and Jordan Flynn to gloss the scoreline.
All rhyme and reason had gone from the game for the last quarter, but Sligo’s Seán Carrabine finished with a flourish, shooting four points and causing Mayo’s experimental full-back line plenty of problems.
Down at the other end, the pick of Mayo’s late scores came from Jack Carney (2), Jack Fallon and Fenton Kelly as they freewheeled home.
As an exercise in raising awareness of Mindspace Mayo’s work in the area of mental health, and giving Mayo and Sligo a chance to get back to brass tacks, in front of a crowd starved for inter-county football, the initiative was a great success.
But the serious business begins for Mayo on Saturday, January 28.

C Reape; J Coyne (0-1), D McBrien, S Callinan; S Coen, C Loftus, D McHugh; M Ruane (0-2), D O’Connor; J Carney (0-4), B Tuohy (0-1, 1 mark), J Flynn (0-2); C McStay (1-2), J Carr (0-2), R O’Donoghue (0-4, 3fs, 1 mark).
Subs: E Hession, B Walsh, R Byrne, J Tuohy, R Brickenden, F Kelly (0-1), P Towey (0-1, 1f), J Fallon (0-1), A Morrison, C Boland, A McDonnell.

A Devaney; P McNamara, E Lyons; L Nicholson; L Towey (0-1), D Cummins, M Walsh; P Kilcoyne, C Griffin; D Quinn (0-1, 1f), S Carrabine (0-4, 1f), G O’Kelly-Lynch; C Howley, N Murphy (0-3, 1f), N Rooney. Subs: C Lally (0-1), D Conlon (1-0), B Cox, M McGowan, E Smith.

Referee: L Devenney (Ballina Stephenites)


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