Wednesday 23 August 2017

Mayo go through the gears to burn off Banner after stuttering start

Mayo 2-14 Clare 0-13 - Cusack Park

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Eventually, they came to life. As was the case in Castlebar a week ago, Mayo chose their moment. It wasn't quite as dramatic as seven days earlier when they needed extra-time to see off Derry but there was some of the same sluggishness about them, a feeling that if Clare could find a way, Mayo would go to sleep.

And at half-time, it looked like they might be about to sleep-walk their way out of the championship.

Andy Moran of Mayo in action against Gordon Kelly of Clare. Photo: Sportsfile
Andy Moran of Mayo in action against Gordon Kelly of Clare. Photo: Sportsfile

Eventually, they roused themselves. Early in the second half they began to find their groove. They had a point on the board 20 seconds after the restart through Kevin McLoughlin, who was then denied a goal by a smart save from Joe Hayes.

Mayo's revival was helped in no small way by Clare when Hayes miscued a free in front of his own goals and found only Conor Loftus, who looked up and picked out Cillian O'Connor, and the Mayo captain did the rest, rounding Hayes to lash home with his left foot.

The goal sparked Mayo into life and two minutes later they found the net again. This time McLoughlin and O'Connor combined to find Diarmuid O'Connor, who crashed the ball home. Mayo had been second best for long periods but suddenly they led by five points as the energy that had coursed through Clare diminished rapidly. The Banner had been so composed to that point but now they were out on their feet

And from there it was pretty routine. Mayo looked, and at times played, like a side who expect to be part of bigger things later this summer. Clare kept trying but the drive they played with in the first half was gone. Clare had a penalty shout waved away late on but even if it had been awarded, it felt like Mayo had done enough to put their name in the hat for tomorrow's draw.

Clare midfielder Gary Brennan soars high to keep the ball from Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea. Photo: Sportsfile
Clare midfielder Gary Brennan soars high to keep the ball from Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea. Photo: Sportsfile

In the first half, it looked like the evening might pan out very differently. Andy Moran, who was a late addition to the Mayo forwards in place of Fergal Boland, opened their account after just 23 seconds but it was the home side who set the tone early on.

Clare immediately went about punching holes in the Mayo defence and Stephen Rochford's side lost Donal Vaughan to a black card after just four minutes. There could be no arguments with the decision. The Ballinrobe man hauled down Gary Brennan when he had a sight on goal.

The Banner would dominate the opening exchanges and, with the excellent Martin McMahon directing operations, hit five unanswered points. Keelan Sexton's '45' put his side 0-6 to 0-1 up after 20 minutes.

However, they should have grabbed a goal in that period of dominance. Jamie Malone's direct running again caused the Mayo defence problems. He broke clear of the cover but was denied by an excellent David Clarke save. Had Malone slipped a pass to Eoin Cleary beside him, Colm Collins's men would likely have goaled.

When McLoughlin finally grabbed Mayo's second score of the game, it ended a 19-minute fallow period for the visitors.

They added two more quick-fire points through Lee Keegan and Diamuid O'Connor, whose goal-bound effort was tipped over by Hayes. Sexton replied to restore Clare's lead to four points. However, Moran hit the last two scores of the half to leave the visitors trailing by 0-8 to 0-6. Mayo were in touch but Clare had enough spade-work done to be further ahead.

Then came Mayo's blistering start to the second half. Clare had no answer and after the promise of the opening 35 minutes, didn't manage a point from play after the restart until the 65th minute.

They kept trying though and died with their boots on. Still, there was a real sense of disappointment around the place as for the second time in a matter of weeks in Cusack Park, Clare had let a big fish off the hook. Mayo finished the game with 14 men after Brendan Harrison was black-carded in injury-time and they had used all their subs. But they survived. Their dream lives on.

Scorers - Mayo: C O'Connor 1-5 (5f), D O'Connor 1-1, A Moran 0-3, K McLoughlin 0-2, K Higgins, L Keegan, A O'Shea 0-1 each. Clare: D Tubridy 0-4 (4f), E Cleary 0-3 (2f), K Sexton 0-2 (0-1 45), G Brennan, G O'Brien, J Malone, S Collins 0-1 each.

Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; L Keegan, C Boyle, K Higgins; S O'Shea D Vaughan; A Moran, A O'Shea, D O'Connor; K McLoughlin, C O'Connor, C Loftus. Subs: S Coen for Vaughan (4), E Regan for Loftus (48), J Doherty for Moran (55), T Parsons for O'Shea (59), F Boland for D O'Connor (65), A Dillon for A O'Shea (67),

Clare: J Hayes; D Ryan, K Hartnett, M McMahon; C O'Dea, G Kelly, C Russell; G Brennan, C O'Connor; J Malone, S Collins, P Lillis; E Cleary, D Tubridy, K Sexton. Subs: J Hayes for O'Connor (39), E Collins for Russell (40 BC), G O'Brien for O'Dea (53), S Malone for Lillis (65), D Nagle for Sexton (75).

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).

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