Round 3A Qualifier: O'Connor brothers bag crucial goals
All Ireland SFC Qualifier Round 3A
MAYO 2-14 CLARE 0-13
By Peter O'Connell at Cusack Park, Ennis
Two early second half goals from the O'Connor brothers, Cillian and Diarmuid, helped Mayo to an ultimately comfortable win over Clare in Ennis on Saturday evening in round three of the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Playing in front of an attendance of 11,576 in Cusack Park, Clare led 0-8 to 0-6 at half-time. The Colm Collins managed Clare made an electric start and led 0-6 to 0-1 after 19 minutes. Andy Moran, who put over 0-3 from play in the first half, kicked the opening score in the first minute, but Clare racked up 0-6 in a pulsating spell. Mayo were also dealt a very early setback when Donal Vaughan was black carded for a tackle on Gary Brennan in the fourth minute.
Brennan was one of Clare's point scores in that period, while Eoin Cleary, David Tubridy, Keelan Sexton, and Jamie Malone also raised white flags.
Malone could have goaled in the 15th minute when he picked up a break off Brennan and cut through the Mayo back line, but David Clarke made a decisive stop and diverted the shot for a '45.
In the final 15 minutes of that half, Moran kicked the remaining 0-2 of his tally, while Lee Keegan, raiding from the half-back line, added a nice point, while Diarmuid O'Connor and Kevin McLoughlin did likewise.
While Mayo were not especially impressive in that half, they did retain 90% of their own kick outs and won 10 turnovers.
Three minutes into the second half, Clare goalkeeper Joe Hayes made an excellent save from Kevin McLoughlin but he could do nothing four minutes later, when Cillian O'Connor picked up an under hit Martin McMahon free and planted a decisive goal.
Two minutes later Diarmuid O'Connor raised a second Mayo green flag and the 2016 All-Ireland finalists led 2-7 to 0-8.
Clare could not sustain the energy levels they had shown in the opening half in what was their 10th Championship fixture between this and last season. They lost key midfielder Cathal O'Connor to a leg injury, while Ciarán Russell was black carded.
Just two of their 11 substitutes had started a league or championship game, which underlined the inexperience on their bench. In contrast Mayo were able to introduce the proven quality of Tom Parsons and Jason Doherty
Mayo looked somewhat ropey early in the first half, but once the goals helped them to carve out a decisive advantage, they were never in danger of losing a qualifier game for the first time since they lost to Longford in 2010.
Scorers for Mayo: Cillian O’Connor 1-5 (5fs), Diarmuid O’Connor 1-1, Andy Moran 0-3, Kevin McLoughlin 0-2, Lee Keegan, Keith Higgins, and Aidan O’Shea 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: David Tubridy 0-4 (4fs), Eoin Cleary 0-3 (2fs), Keelan Sexton 0-2 (1 45), Jamie Malone, Sean Collins, Gary Brennan, and Gearoid O’Brien 0-1 each.
MAYO: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins; Séamus O'Shea, Aidan O'Shea; Diarmuid O'Connor; Donal Vaughan, Kevin McLoughlin, Andy Moran, Cillian O'Connor, Conor Loftus.
Subs: Stephen Coen for Donal Vaughan (4, BC), Evan Regan for Conor Loftus (48), Jason Doherty for Andy Moran (55), Tom Parsons for Seamus O'Shea (58), Fergal Boland for Diarmuid O'Connor (64), Alan Dillon for Aidan O'Shea (67).
CLARE: Joe Hayes; Dean Ryan, Kevin Harnett, Gordon Kelly; Martin McMahon; Jamie Malone (, Cian O'Dea; Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor; Ciarán Russell, Eoin Cleary, Pearse Lillis; Seán Collins, David Tubridy, Keelan Sexton.
Subs: John Hayes for Cathal O'Connor (49 inj), Eoghan Collins for Ciáran Russell (40, BC), Gearóid O'Brien for Cian O'Dea (53), Seanie Malone for Pearse Lillis (64), Darren Nagle for Keelan Sexton (70, BC).
REFEREE: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).