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Allianz FL D2: Mayo see off tenacious Clare

Clare v Mayo Full-Time

Allianz Football League Division 2 Semi-Final

MAYO 2-22 CLARE 2-18

By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park

Mayo expectedly bounced back to Division 1 at the first attempt but certainly didn’t have it all their own way against a spirited Clare in Cusack Park, Ennis this afternoon.

An impressive 13 point second quarter turnaround, thanks in the main to goals from Cillian O’Connor and Oisin Mullin, seemed to have quelled the home rebellion as last year’s All-Ireland finalists led by 2-13 to 0-08 by the break.

However, the early retirement of the O’Connor brothers Cillian and Diarmuid through injury allied to an inevitable backlash from their hosts made for an increasingly anxious finale that saw Mayo’s cushion slashed to just three entering the final minutes.

In the end, an insurance point from captain Paddy Durcan sealed a deserved away victory but despite a high work-rate and some excellent counter-attacks, James Horan’s side still have to find a few more gears for an another extended championship run which starts in two week’s time away to Sligo.

For their part, Clare, following a bright start, will rue a lacklustre first half in which they were outscored by 2-10 to 0-03 in the last 25 minutes. Up against such a ruthless opponent, Clare were royally punished as three Mayo goal chances finally paid dividends with the opening goal in the 15th minute. It stemmed from a turnover from a Clare kick-out that saw Cillian O’Connor earn and convert a penalty to nudge his side 1-7 to 0-5 clear by the first water break.

Oisin Mullin of Mayo blocks a shot by Joe McGann of Clare during the Allianz Football League Division 2 semi-final match between Clare and Mayo at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. 

Oisin Mullin of Mayo blocks a shot by Joe McGann of Clare during the Allianz Football League Division 2 semi-final match between Clare and Mayo at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. 

A second goal would arrive on the half hour mark, this time Tommy Conroy attracting Clare’s last line before offloading to corner-back Oisin Mullin to find the net on their way to a sizeable 2-13 to 0-08 half-time advantage.

Clare refused to adhere to the script though and with nothing to lose, finally got a slice of fortune when David Tubridy’s delivery dropped short and was flicked out of goalkeeper Robbie Hennelly’s hands by towering midfielder Darren O’Neill seven minutes into the new half. That combination would work again only four minutes later as O’Neill, now posted at full-forward, this time teed up Éire Óg club-mate Gavin Cooney for a close range goal to lessen the damage to seven at 2-17 to 2-10.

Inspired by those goals, Clare surged in confidence and mainly through captain Eoin Cleary and substitute Emmet McMahon, would eventually topple Mayo’s lead to three by the 69th minute at 2-21 to 2-18.

However, despite a few hopeful deliveries, an equalising goal never materialised as instead Mayo, backed by an impressive array of 13 different scorers, justifiably joined Kildare in Division 1 for 2022.

Scorers for Mayo: Cillian O’Connor (1-4, 1-0 Pen, 1f, 1m); Tommy Conroy, Paul Towey (2f) (0-3 each); Ryan O’Donoghue (1f, 1m), Matthew Ruane, Paddy Durcan (0-2 each); Oisin Mullin (1-0); Bryan Walsh, Stephen Coen, Kevin McLoughlin, Lee Keegan, Rory Brickenden, Darren McHale (0-1 each)

Scorers for Clare: Eoin Cleary (0-8, 6f); Gavin Cooney (1-1); Emmet McMahon, David Tubridy (0-3 each); Darren O’Neill (1-0); Cathal O’Connor, Pearse Lillis, Podge Collins (0-1 each)

MAYO: Robbie Hennelly; Oisin Mullin, Lee Keegan, Enda Hession; Rory Brickenden, Paddy Durcan, Stephen Coen; Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor; Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea, Bryan Walsh; Tommy Conroy, Cillian O’Connor, Ryan O’Donoghue. Subs: Jordan Flynn for D. O’Connor (11), Paul Towey for C. O’Connor (35), Darren McHale for O’Donoghue (51), Eoghan O’Donoghue for Hession (53), Conor Loftus for Conroy (62), Conor O’Shea for Brickenden (62)

CLARE: Stephen Ryan; Ciaran Russell, Cillian Brennan, Eoghan Collins; Cian O’Dea, Sean Collins, Daniel Walsh; Darren O’Neill, Cathal O’Connor; Pearse Lillis, Eoin Cleary, Darragh Bohannon; Gavin Cooney, Joe McGann, David Tubridy. Subs: Conall Ó hÁiniféin for Walsh (23), Podge Collins for McGann (HT), Conor Jordan for E. Collins (HT), Aaron Griffin for Cooney (51), Emmet McMahon for O’Connor (51), Cillian Rouine for Ó hÁiniféin (58), Keelan Sexton for Lillis (58)

Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)