Moran on double as ruthless Mayo swat Leitrim aside
CONNACHT SFC SEMI-FINAL
JUST how determined the defending Connacht football champions are to make something of their summer was writ large on the scoreboard in Castlebar yesterday.
Any fears that Mayo might have been ring-rusty after the eight-week lay-off since the league final were firmly erased with this power-play, which saw them eight points -- 2-9 to 0-7 -- up at half-time and bagging their third goal well before the hour.
Frankly, any young Leitrim fans should have been ushered off the premises at the interval because no child should have been allowed to see their heroes being torn apart in such a football horror show.
The 22-point winning margin was probably a little flattering because 1-4 of Mayo's scores came in the last five minutes when Leitrim were reduced to 14 men after full-back Fabian McMorrow was sent off for a second yellow card.
Leitrim actually put it up to them for the first 25 minutes when there was just a point between the sides.
But the losers didn't look for any excuses after this horrific mauling and centre-back Enda Williams summed up the huge chasm in standard.
"You look up at the scoreboard, you're losing by 10 or 15 points and next thing they bring on Conor Mortimer and Ronan McGarrity and you're sort of saying to yourself 'what are you at here'," he admitted ruefully.
After a bit of a shaky start this was a merciless display by the hosts, who showed no signs of embarrassment at mortifying their Division 4 guests, speaking volumes about Mayo's ambition.
Leitrim certainly weren't helped by losing experienced wing-back Wayne McKeon to injury after just nine minutes and midfielder Shane Moran by half-time.
Once Shane Moran had taken a knock Mayo, led by Barry Moran, took over in midfield and the most telling thing about the second half was what was going on along the sideline.
They say the competition for places is what makes the Kilkenny hurlers so magnificent and there were shades of that from the home side yesterday.
It's rare you see a man who has scored two goals whipped off but Mayo were clearly keen to get game-time for as many as possible, so even inspirational captain Andy Moran got the crooked stick as James Horan emptied his bench by the hour mark.
What was equally noticeable was how every Mayo addition bust his gut on arrival, with Richie Feeney, Enda Varley and Mortimer especially putting their hands up for inclusion against Sligo the next day.
Just how much Mayo have improved since the league final was impossible to gauge against a team so dependent on one scorer -- Emlyn Mulligan -- but they certainly reacted properly, on the field and on the sideline, to snuff out the early threat.
Donal Vaughan struggled on Mulligan who scored 0-5 (3f) by half-time but the switch of Lee Keegan to mark him considerably lessened his influence.
Four of Mayo's five subs got on the scoreboard, as did nine of their starters and 4-13 of their total came from play.
Horan is not a man given to whooping it up and stressed that it is easy for subs to come in and do well when a team is coasting.
But even he couldn't hide his quiet satisfaction, saying: "We have subs, particularly up front, that are doing very well and we have the two O'Sheas to come into the mix around the middle as well. At the moment there is good competition there which is essential."
Defensively, all their full-back line and Keegan were impressive, Cillian O'Connor's free-taking was impeccable and Kevin McLoughlin was outstanding throughout.
When Mayo's counter-attacking game hit its stride they looked impressive but it took them a long time to get out of the blocks and neither of their corner-forwards impressed greatly.
As for Leitrim, they now go in search of what would be a first ever win in the qualifiers and seem to embody the massive gap in strata that has opened up in the game nationally.
Co-manager George Dugdale was a member of the famous team that beat Mayo and won Connacht in '94.
"We competed really well in the first half until two or three lapses in concentration yielded overlaps and goals and that killed us," he said. "But that's the difference between Division 1 and Division 4 and it doesn't reflect the huge effort that the lads have put in over the past year.
"It is something the hierarchy are going to have to look at," he admitted. "A decent second-tier championship, played on All-Ireland final day alongside the premier competition, may be something to look at for teams similar to Leitrim because, being realistic, there's only seven or eight teams who have a real chance of winning the All-Ireland.
"The rest have little or no chance but because there's so much time and money invested and players put in so much effort, two games in the height of the summer is little return for all your efforts," he said.
Scorers -- Mayo: A Moran 2-0, C O'Connor 0-6f, K McLoughlin 1-2, A Freeman 1-0, A Dillon 0-3, C Mortimer 0-2 (1f), K Higgins, L Keegan, B Moran, D Geraghty, R McGarrity, M Conroy and E Varley 0-1 each. Leitrim: E Mulligan 0-7 (5f), D Beck, D Sweeney and R Cox 0-1 each.
Mayo -- D Clarke 8; K Keane 8, G Cafferkey 9, K Higgins 8; L Keegan 9, D Vaughan 7, C Boyle 6; B Moran 8, D Geraghty 6; K McLoughlin 9, C O'Connor 7, A Dillon 8; J Doherty 6, A Moran (capt) 7, A Freeman 6. Subs: R Feeney 8 for Boyle (45), R McGarrity 7 for Geraghty (49), M Conroy 7 for Doherty (53), C Mortimer 7 for Freeman (53), E Varley 8 for Moran (61).
Leitrim -- C McCrann 8; D Beck 7, F McMorrow 6, P Maguire (capt) 7; C Clarke 6, E Williams 7, W McKeon; D Sweeney 6, S Moran 7; P Brennan 6, E Mulligan 8, P McGowan 5; R Cox 6, J Glancy 5, A Croal 5. Subs: R Lowe 6 for McKeon (inj 9), C Sheridan 6 for Moran (inj h-t), B McDonald 5 for Croal (47), G Hickey 5 for McGowan (57), K Conlon 5 for Lowe (63).
Ref -- M Higgins (Fermanagh).