Rob Hennelly to the rescue as Mayo plunder Clones
Mayo 2-11 Monaghan1-12
A classic arm wrestle in Clones was bookended by a very modern twist.
Mayo and Monaghan had been trying to beat each other into submission in an absorbing contest.
But despite all the attacking talent on display, it was Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly who booted over the final two points of the game to secure his side's first win of the season and kickstart their campaign.
And in the process, the Breaffy stopper underlined the profound influence goalkeepers can have in the modern game as he had produced a vial stop to deny Monaghan a goal when the game was just seconds old.
In fact, three of the game's last four points came from the men between the posts after Rory Beggan booted over a 45 to cut the game to the minimum before Conor McManus levelled it to heap the pressure on Mayo, who had led for all of the second half.
There were 68 minutes on the clock when Hennelly wandered up to hit his first free.
Around 50m from goal on the angle, he had more than enough distance to end a 15-minute scoreless spell.
He'd narrowly miss with another before kicking the game's last score to secure the points.
They had held on grimly at times but they were resolute. Monaghan wouldn't score from play in the second half.
Mayo might have added to their goal tally too but Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty couldn't find the target with two decent chances.
Still, Mayo got their first win of the year and welcome Kerry to Castlebar next weekend in a much different mindset, even if Stephen Rockford insisted that the prospect of relegation wasn't discussed in his camp this week.
"We never talked about it," he insisted. "Never spoke about relegation, never spoke about anything bar the Conor McManuses and the Darren Hugheses. They can concentrate the mind as much as what the consequences would be.
"The boys have been in this position before and it was genuinely about backing it up with a win on top of what the performances have been in the last two games.
"There's pressure in every game. You're dealing with an extremely competitive division. The question was asked there (about relegation) and though we didn't focus on it, the consequences of a loss would put you under extreme pressure.
"But you also know that teams will take points off each other.
"It's never this game in isolation, it's never next week in isolation. Things will move, right up until the last game. Our focus is very much on Kerry in the next game."
Mayo led by a point at half-time but they almost made the worst possible start. Directly from the throw-in, Karl O'Connell scorched through the cover to get himself one-on-one with Hennelly.
However, the Breaffy man made a smart stop to deny the home side a dream opening.
There were only nine minutes gone when Aidan O'Shea's afternoon came to a premature end after he was black-carded for a challenge on Ryan Wylie.
Soon after that, the Farney grabbed the game's first goal. Daniel McKenna barged his way past Brendan Harrison and flicked the ball across to the inrushing Fintan Kelly.
The Clones man was fouled by a number of recovering Mayo defenders.
McManus stepped up and while Hennelly did well to stop his initial effort, the Clontibret star calmly side-footed the rebound home to hand them a 1-2 to 0-2 advantage.
Vitally, Mayo hit back almost immediately when the Monaghan defence uncharacteristically gave Conor Loftus too much space and his clever finish pulled the sides back level.
As the half wore on Mayo grew stronger with Diarmuid O'Connor and Colm Boyle driving them on and a late point from Evan Regan pushed them into a 1-6 to 1-5 lead at the interval.
O'Connor grabbed the second-half's vital score too.
He made enough of a nuisance of himself to distract Beggan and Kelly as Tom Parson's line ball dropped into the square. And he was first to react to the loose ball to toe-poke to the net on 42 minutes.
Amazingly, Mayo would only score three points in the 32 minutes of play that followed but Monaghan couldn't generate enough traction up front to reel them.
Afterwards, Farney manager Malachy O'Rourke questioned whether star man Conor McManus had been given enough protection by officials.
"I don't know," he replied when asked if McManus had been fouled out of the game. "It's very hard to judge it when you are emotionally involved in the game but certainly we felt he seemed to be getting plenty of close treatment - whether some of them were pulls or not ... we certainly felt we didn't get frees for it. Everyone sees it in a different way."
Monaghan delivered their second fine performance in a week but have nothing to show for their efforts and now need to pick up points to ensure their Division 1 status.
"It's the exact same position we were in this time last year - we had four points after four games. There is no difference. In none of the games you can be guaranteed a win they are all tight games," said O'Rourke.
"That's what great about the first division but we are under no illusions and we are in for a tight one in Cork but we're up for the challenge. We always knew that was going to be the case so we'll prepare for that and go down there and hopefully get the win."
Scorers - Mayo: D O'Connor 1-1; C Loftus 1-0; E Regan (2f) 0-3; C O'Shea, K McLoughlin, R Hennelly (2f) 0-2 each; J Doherty 0-1. Monaghan: C McManus (8f) 1-8; T Kerr, S Carey, F Kelly, R Beggan (1 '45) 0-1 each
Mayo - R Hennelly 8; G Cafferkey 8, B Harrison 6, S Nally 7; M Hall 6, C Boyle 7, L Keegan 7; S O'Shea 7, T Parsons 7; D O'Connor 8, K McLoughlin 7, C O'Shea 7; E Regan 7, A O'Shea 5, C Loftus 6. Subs: J Doherty 7 for A O'Shea (10 BC), M Sweeney 6 for Loftus (45), D Vaughan 6 for Keegan (52 BC), C Barrett 6 for Nally (57), J Gibbons for C O'Shea (65), A Moran for Regan (66)
Monaghan - R Beggan 7; C Walsh 7, D Wylie 7, R Wylie 7; K Duffy 7, N McAdam 6, F Kelly 7; K O'Connell 7, D Hughes 8; O Duffy 6, D Malone 6, T Kerr 7; S Carey 6, D McKenna 7, C McManus 7. Subs: R McAnespie 6 for O Duffy (HT), B McGinn 6 for Malone (45), C Boyle 6 for K Duffy (46), C McCarthy 6 for McKenna (58)
Ref - J McQuillan (Cavan)
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