Monaghan add to Mayo's problems
Monaghan 1-11 Mayo 0-12
Mayo's winter of discontent rumbled into the spring last night when they lost to Monaghan for the first time since the Ulster side returned to the top flight in 2015.
In September, Mayo's agonising one-point loss to Dublin in the All-Ireland final replay left them shattered, and while they were still regrouping they were hit by a GAA version of a nuclear winter when former joint-managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly finally broke their silence of their controversial ousting in 2015.
And now the spring has started on a sour note with this home loss to Monaghan, who fully deserved their win, though they finished the game with 14 men.
It's a victory which sets them up perfectly for a League campaign in which their primary focus will be on staying in the top flight. Inevitably it was Conor McManus who was their hero, hitting six points and setting up the decisive goal for Darren Hughes just after half-time.
Mayo's discipline was poor in the early exchanges and they conceded three kickable frees on the spin which McManus nailed to give the visitors a 3-1 advantage after ten minutes.
It took a brilliant save from David Clarke to deny McCarthy a goal as the Ulster side continued to set the pace. They chased in packs and packed their outer defensive sector with bodies, which forced Mayo to take pot shots from distance.
Three efforts landed short into the hands of goalkeeper Rory Beggan. At the other end Monaghan's game plan was to run at the Mayo defence in an effort to draw frees, though they hit their first score from play after 20 minutes through Darren Hughes to lead 0-5 to 0-1.
There was a distinct lack of leadership in the Mayo team, though they finally ended a 21-minute scoring drought with an Evan Regan point 11 minutes from the break.
A Cillian O'Connor free in the 28th minute after a foul on Jason Doherty made it a two-point game as the Monaghan wides tally crept up to five and their over-dependence on McManus for scores became more apparent.
Mayo's improvement continued with Kevin McLoughlin scoring and then setting up the equalising point for Alan Freeman, who finally got the better of Drew Wylie to win an aerial ball. The home side's second-quarter comeback was completed a minute from the break when Regan converted a difficult free to give his side a 0-6 to 0-5 advantage at the break.
Mayo left Monaghan standing out in the cold for at least five minutes before reappearing for the second half and were then blitzed by the visitors who outscored them 1-2 to 0-2 in the opening seven minutes. Unfortunate not to win a close-in free, Mayo got caught on the break with McManus using all his strength to outfield Keith Higgins before linking up with midfielder Darren Hughes, who bundled the ball over the line.
Having failed to score from play in the first half the Monaghan forwards hit two points in as many minutes and though they were split by a brace of frees from O'Connor, the Farney men had suddenly taken control. A brilliant long-range free in the 48th minute from Beggan confirmed this trend as they stretched their lead to three points.
With tempers getting frayed, the game became disjoined but Monaghan continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over, with McManus hitting his fifth point.
Given the nature of the exchanges it was inevitable that there would be dismissals and Monaghan's Karl O'Connell was sent off in the 60th minute after picking up his second yellow. Another brace of O'Connor points brought the margin down to two before Gavin Doogan's score left it a three-point game again with eight minutes left.
O'Connor's sixth point left two between the sides and an uncharacteristic miss from McManus and five minutes of injury-time gave Mayo a chance. Mayo's only second-half scorer, O'Connor, hit a free to leave the minimum between the sides but McManus had the final say with a sublime point from near the left-hand touch line to seal a famous win for the Farney county.
Scorers - Monaghan: C McManus 0-6 (3fs, 1 '45'), D Hughes 1-1,R Beggan (f), C Walshe, G Doogan, T Kerr. Mayo: C O'Connor 0-7 (5fs), E Regan 0-2 (1f), F Boland, K McLoughlin, A Freeman
Mayo: D Clarke; D Newcombe, K Higgins, P Durcan; C Boyle, S Coen, D Drake; D Vaughan, D Kirby; F Boland, K McLoughlin, J Doherty; E Regan, A Freeman, C O'Connor. Subs: D O'Connor for Regan 48m, T Parsons for Kirby 52m, A Moran for Freeman 55m; C O'Shea for Doherty 67m.
Monaghan: R Beggan; F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; K O'Connell, K Duffy, N McAdam; D Hughes, K Hughes; C Walshe, S Carey, G Doogan; C McCarthy, T Kerr, C McManus. Subs: D Malone for McCarthy ht; R McAnespie for Carey 50m; O Duffy for Kerr 59m; J Mealiff for McAdam 67m
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)
Sunday Indo Sport