Allianz FL D2 North: Mayo start with statement of intent
Allianz Football League Division Two North
MAYO 2-21 DOWN 1-11
Kevin Egan at MacHale Park
Mayo’s first game outside of football’s top tier since 1997 was played out in front of an empty house at MacHale Park in Castlebar this afternoon, but even if the Connacht champions had a stadium full of passionate supporters they would have done well to match the intensity and sharpness that was produced by James Horan’s side.
Down were extremely competitive in the early exchanges, holding their own in the battle for scrappy, greasy ball at midfield while offering a decent scoring threat up front. Corey Quinn was particularly lively for the Mourne men, picking off an early mark and then adding a second score in the tenth minute after deceiving the Mayo defence by wheeling around and coming from behind the shoulder of Enda Hession.
When James Guinness followed up with a fine score off the right wing, the contest was tied at 0-4 each, and it looked like the All-Ireland champions might have their hands full with this season opener.
Earlier this week, reports from within the Mayo camp suggested that corner forward Tommy Conroy was in explosive form and that the man from The Neale might be set to be an even more influential player during this year’s campaign than he was last year. With 14 minutes on the clock, he showed exactly why as he held off the close attention of Patrick Murdock and with referee Fergal Kelly allowing advantage, he went for the kill and duly slipped a low shot past Rory Burns for the game’s first goal.
The next two points were shared as the game went through a quiet spell, in no small part because of the increasingly heavy rain that fell in Castlebar, but defensively Mayo were getting a real grip on the game and once their forwards started to match that form, they quickly put distance between the sides.
Conroy, Fionn McDonagh, Jordan Flynn and the impressive Oisín Mullin all pointed to help build up a 1-10 to 0-6 interval lead, and it took a smart save from Burns to deny McDonagh a second goal and keep the deficit to just that.
However faint the chances were of a comeback at half-time, they had disappeared almost entirely within five minutes of the restart. Matthew Ruane burst forward to open the scoring in fine style and after Cillian O’Connor added a free, another strong run from Conroy set up his corner forward colleague Ryan O’Donoghue for the game’s second goal.
At 2-12 to 0-6, sensing the result was decided, both managers started to dip heavily into their bench, to good effect. Eoghan McLaughlin and Bryan Walsh pointed for Mayo with Conor Loftus also very busy in the middle third, while on the rare occasions that players like Paul Devlin, Liam Kerr and Stephen McConville were given the chance to raise a flag, they met the challenge – McConville finding the net early in the final quarter from about ten metres out.
Those good moments for Down were still all too rare from their point of view, while Mayo kept up the intensity and the pace of their play. With Down tiring in the face of that power and athleticism, opportunities for dead ball scores started to accumulate. Cillian O’Connor was relentless in his accuracy, doubling his tally in the final quarter, leaving Mayo with a tally that suggests they’ve picked up right where they left off in 2020.
Scorers for Mayo: Cillian O‘Connor 0-8 (0-7f, 0-1 ’45), Tommy Conroy 1-3, Ryan O’Donoghue 1-1, Matthew Ruane 0-2, Jordan Flynn, Fionn McDonagh, Michael Plunkett, Diarmuid O’Connor (f), Bryan Walsh & Eoghan McLaughlin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Down: Barry O’Hagan 0-5 (0-4f), Stephen McConville 1-0, Corey Quinn 0-2 (0-1m), James Guinness, Daniel Guinness, Paul Devlin (f) & Liam Kerr 0-1 each.
MAYO: Rob Hennelly; Enda Hession, Oisín Mullin, Lee Keegan; Michael Plunkett, Patrick Durcan, Rory Brickenden; Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor; Fionn McDonagh, Kevin McLoughlin, Jordan Flynn; Tommy Conroy, Cillian O’Connor, Ryan O’Donoghue.
Subs: Eoghan McLaughlin for Brickenden (half-time), Bryan Walsh for Flynn (half-time), Conor Loftus for McDonagh (47), Stephen Coen for McLoughlin (55), Aidan Orme for O’Donoghue (55), James McCormack for Diarmuid O’Connor (62), Colm Boyle for Keegan (67).
DOWN: Rory Burns; Gerard Collins, Gerard McGovern, Patrick Murdock; Jonny Flynn, Pierce Laverty, Kevin McKernan; Ryan McEvoy, Conor Poland; James Guinness, Caolan Mooney, Daniel Guinness; Ceilium Doherty, Corey Quinn, Barry O’Hagan.
Subs: Liam Kerr for Doherty (35), Eoghan McCabe for Poland (39), Darren O’Hagan for McKernan (43), Paul Devlin for Quinn (50), Liam Middleton for McEvoy (50), Stephen McConville for Daniel Guinness (50), Brendan McArdle for Murdock (54).
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)