Mayo's new boss is off to winning start
Mayo 1-12 NUI Galway 1-10
Published 04/01/2016 | 02:30
Stephen Rochford's Mayo footballers ran out to the sound of U2's Magnificent blasting over the tannoy at MacHale Park, but the manager insisted his side could do better after they edged past NUI Galway.
After trailing by a point at the break, Mayo opened a five-point lead midway though the second-half, but needed two late frees to clinch the win after Adam Gallagher hit a penalty for the Galway students.
In his first game in charge Rochford handed out five debuts, but it was the steady hand of Kevin McLoughlin that edged Mayo over the line after Gallagher - another Mayo panellist - drew NUI Galway level with eight minutes remaining.
"I am heartened by a number of things, but obviously that level of performance needs to be well improved by the end of the month which is our short term focus," said Rochford.
"We have been on the pitch twice this week and that has been the sole amount of work that we have done. I thought we adapted well and showed spirit when the challenge came."
Without the likes of Cillian O'Connor, Lee Keegan and Andy Moran, Rochford needed a big performance from his experienced players and it was McLoughlin that stood out.
Two frees from him before the interval meant Mayo only trailed by 0-7 to 0-6, and in the 42nd minute he intercepted a loose pass in defence and hit the net for what looked like a game winner.
But points from Conor O'Shea - Aidan and Seamus' brother - and Peter Cooke kept NUI Galway in contention, before a foul on the impressive Michael Daly saw NUIG awarded a penalty, which Gallagher scored to level.
Despite losing Jason Gibbons to a suspected concussion late on, Mayo finished strongly. McLoughlin gave them the lead in the 60th minute and Robbie Hennelly sealed the win.
To their credit NUI Galway made Mayo battle all the way to secure the victory and with Daly heavily involved, they raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after six minutes.
But five successive points from Mayo laid the foundations for a home win, and Conor Loftus, Padraig O'Hora and Shane Nally caught the eye with impressive debuts.
"Our hands were tied with guys that are restricted with Castlebar, Hollymount, some guys in college and guys injured and returning from their own time off," said Rochford.
"The team was what we had, we didn't have any more than the 23 that togged. We'll probably have one or two guys back for the middle of next week.
"Any day you are going out with a team, you are going out with the intention of being competitive and you are looking to win. It's a case of trying to build for the game against Cork and get ourselves competitive."
SCORERS - Mayo: K McLoughlin 1-4 (4f), C Loftus 0-3 (2f), J Doherty, D McHale, C Boyle, R Hennelly (1f), M Ronaldson 0-1 each. NUI Galway: A Gallagher 1-4 (1-0 pen, 2f), P Cooke 0-2 (1f), M Daly, E Finnerty, C Davey, C O'Shea 0-1 each
MAYO - R Hennelly; B Harrison, K Keane, P O'Hora; C Boyle, S McHale, S Nally; J Gibbons, T Parsons; K McLoughlin, M Ronaldson, D McHale; K Ruttledge, J Doherty, C Loftus. Subs: M Sweeney for Ruttledge (43), K Higgins for S McHale (52), C Crowe for Gibbons (55), G Cafferkey for O'Hora (59)
NUI GALWAY - D O'Sullivan; K McDonnell, D Cunnane, D Murray; J McManus, L Cullen, A Nolan; C O'Shea, P Cooke; E O'Donoghue, M Daly, A Gallagher; K Finn, E Finnerty, C Davey. Subs: S Moran for O'Donoghue (21), E Boland for Nolan (41), E Lavin for Gallagher (55), A McCormack for Cooke (63)
REF - Barry Judge (Sligo)