All-Ireland SFC: Mayo back on track
All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 2
MAYO 1-16 DOWN 1-11
By Declan Bogue in Pairc Esler
Mayo got their hunt for a Super 8's place back on track after that messy Roscommon defeat in Connacht, with a typically nerve-shredding win over Down on Saturday night.
While they did open up a seven point gap early in the second half, their sense of control is not at the elite level. The madness that exists at the heart of Mayo football is still alive. They need it.
This was only their second Championship match in Ulster. The first was way back in 2007 in Celtic Park when they fell to Derry.
The fear here was that Paddy Tally, having been an important component of the Galway coaching team that restricted Mayo in their 0-12 to 1-12 Connacht Championship defeat last year, could produce something similar.
In simmering, uncomfortable heat, Mayo manager James Horan felt it was exactly the kind of hard road that suited old dogs and so came decorated All-Stars David Clarke, Colm Boyle and Andy Moran, supplemented by young talent in championship debutant Fionn McDonagh and Conor Loftus in a hard-running half-forward line.
Down started much more positively than anticipated and in Caolan Mooney they had a threat that sliced through the middle at will. In the ninth minute this tactics paid off as he slalomed past a forest of Mayo bodies, got lucky with the bounce to go one on one with David Clarke and calmly potted his shot across Clarke to push Down into a 1-1 to 0-2 lead.
Almost on cue however, they retreated. Clarke had some bother finding his man with kickouts but then Down lay too deep and allowed them out, leading to them scoring six of the next seven points.
However, they themselves fell into a lull and invited Down on. They had to be bailed out on several occasions when Aidan O'Shea, operated as a deep-lying midfielder, was able to use his huge strength to get them out of tight corners.
Two early points at the start of the second half opened up a seven point margin for Mayo, but they just cannot exert the kind of dominance of, say, Dublin.
With nothing to lose, Down kept banging the ball forward and Connaire Harrison and Donal O'Hare spread panic.
One such delivery found its way to O'Hare and while Keith Higgins managed to claw the ball free, he still had a free swing at it on the turf. Goalkeeper Clarke made himself huge in the goal to block the effort.
A lack of composure, going through four long-range freetakers, was a significant weakness in the Down plan. Burns, Harrison, O'Hare and substitute Paul Devlin all attempted the tricky ones but they had no joy from out of range.
Still, two Cory Quinn points and one from Jerome Johnston nibbled the Mayo lead.
A Keegan raid from deep, with the final score smashing off the crossbar and over from Jason Doherty, added a little relief.
It was the three second half points from Lee Keegan got them home. The jamboree continues.
Scorers for Down: C Mooney 1-1, D O'Hare 0-3, 2f, C Harrison 0-2, C Quinn 0-2, P Havern, J Johnston 0-1 each
Scorers for Mayo: C Loftus 1-4, 3f, L Keegan 0-3, F McDonagh, A Moran 0-2 each, D O'Connor, K McLoughlin, C Treacy 0-1 each
DOWN: R Burns; D O'Hagan, B McArdle, G Collins; R McAleenan, K McKernan, D Guinness; O McCabe, C Poland; C Francis, C Mooney, P Laverty; P Havern, D O'Hare, C Harrison. Subs: J Guinness for Laverty (42m), J Johnston for D Guinness (46m), C Quinn for Havern (50m), B O'Hagan for McCabe (55m), P Devlin for D O'Hagan (Black card, 62m)
MAYO: D Clarke; C Barrett, B Harrison, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, P Durcan; D O'Connor, A O'Shea; F McDonagh, C Loftus, J Doherty; K McLoughlin, D Coen, A Moran. Subs: E Regan for D Coen (Black card, 14m), F Boland for Doherty (53m), M Murray for McDonagh (62m), C Treacy for McLoughlin (69m), M Plunkett for Moran (71m), J McCormack for D O'Connor (76m)
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)