Mayo back on track as blitz blasts Lilies out of the water
Mayo 2-17 Kildare 0-14
Mayo kept alive their All-Ireland ambitions when they knocked out back-door specialists Kildare in round two of the qualifiers last night. In only the second championship encounter between the counties, Mayo's superior finishing secured them a place in tomorrow's draw, where they will be pitted against the losers of either the Ulster or Leinster final.
A 2-2 scoring burst just before half-time effectively settled the game as the hosts led by ten points at the break and never looked like they would be caught.
Man of the match Diarmuid O'Connor scored 1-5 from play while Evan Regan hit 1-4 in Mayo's best performance of the year.
Read more: Mayo too strong for Kildare: As it happened
Kildare, who beat Cork last season on their way to their sixth All-Ireland quarter-final appearance in eight seasons, have struggled in the championship under new boss Cian O'Neill - who was Mayo's physical trainer in 2011.
Kildare collapsed in the second half of the Leinster semi-final against Westmeath and while they got back to winning ways against Offaly last weekend, this step up in class proved a bridge too far for them.
The ability of the recalled Andy Moran - who was making his 136th appearance for Mayo - to show for the ball and win it was significant in the early exchanges in which the home side quickly found their mojo with the wind.
But it was wing-forward O'Connor who made the most significant impression, kicking three wonderful points from the right flank; his brother Cillian added a free to give Mayo a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after just seven minutes.
The scoring rate dropped as the half progressed and the contest became littered with a succession of frees. But points from Morgan O'Flaherty, Cathal McNally and Neil Flynn brought Kildare back into the game at 0-5 to 0-3 by the end of the first quarter.
Mayo had legitimate appeals for a penalty turned down in the 18th minute when Donie Vaughan appeared to have been impeded as he attempted to steer the ball over the line after being put through by the increasingly influential Evan Regan.
While Mayo had the next score through corner-back Patrick Durcan, Kildare enjoyed their most productive spell with a brace of points from O'Flaherty and Flynn to narrow the gap to a point with 12 minutes left in the half.
Mayo had another penalty claim turned down in the 28th minute after Diarmuid O'Connor clashed with Tommy Moolick in the square, but the incident energised the crowd and the home players, who suddenly thundered up another gear.
They were rewarded six minutes before the break when, after Moran's shot was partially blocked by Ciaran Fitzpatrick, the full forward toe-poked the ball across the square where it was rolled to the net by Regan, who added a point soon afterwards.
Mayo then hit overdrive for the first time since last summer, with Diarmuid O'Connor soloing through from the right and evading several half-hearted tackles before planting the ball in the net. Then Moran set up Regan for another goal chance which was brilliantly pushed over the bar by Mark Donnellan.
Suddenly Mayo were ten points clear; Aidan O'Shea, Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins all looked to have rediscovered their hunger, though Kildare showed a bit of defiance on the stroke of half-time when it took a brilliant save from David Clare to deny Emmet Bolton a goal.
Bolton, who had been marking Diarmuid O'Connor, didn't reappear for the second half as Kildare made two changes, with Fionn Dowling and Keith Cribbin being introduced - both hit early points as the action resumed. Dowling was Kildare's top second half scorer with three points.
After Mayo withdrew full-back Kevin Keane - he was replaced by All-Ireland under 21 captain Stephen Coen - with Aidan O'Shea going to full-back. Kildare were winning a lot of ball at midfield but not making any progress at reducing the deficit. Regan and O'Connor added to the tally at the other end while Moran received a standing ovation when he was replaced by Alan Dillon. Boyle - who had made a wonderful block moments earlier - was black carded for a pull-down on Fergal Conway in the 52nd minute.
In the final quarter Mayo effectively switched off; the contest became increasingly ragged as the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion. Mayo march on but they need to be mindful of the fact that their home comforts are now over.
Scorers - Mayo: D O'Connor 1-5, E Regan 1-4 (0-1f), C O'Connor (2fs) J Doherty 0-2 each, K Higgins, P Durcan, A Freeman, C O'Shea 0-1 each. Kildare: N Flynn 0-5 (2fs, 1 45), F Dowling 0-3, M O'Flaherty 0-2, J Byrne, C McNally, A Smith (f), K Cribbin all 0-1 each.
Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, K Keane, P Durcan; L Keegan, K McLoughlin, C Boyle; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; K Higgins, A O'Shea, D O'Connor; E Regan, A Moran, C O'Connor. Subs: S Coen for Keane (41), A Dillon for Moran (48), B Moran for C Boyle BC (52), J Doherty for Harrison (62), A Freeman for Regan (65), C O'Shea for D O'Connor (68).
Kildare: M Donnellan; O Lyons, D Hyland, C Fitzpatrick; E Bolton, E Doyle, J Byrne; T Moolick, K Feely; M O'Flaherty, F Conway, E O'Flaherty; C McNally, N Kelly, N Flynn. Subs: K Cribbin for M O'Flaherty (ht), F Dowling for Bolton (ht), A Smith for E O'Flaherty ((44), E Callaghan for McNally (49), P Kelly for Fitzpatrick (52). C Healy for Flynn (64).
Referee: D O'Mahoney (Tipperary)
Sunday Indo Sport