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Another championship mismatch as Mayo thrash Leitrim by 24 points

Mayo 5-20 Leitrim 0-11


Tommy Conroy found the net in Mayo's win over Leitrim. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Tommy Conroy found the net in Mayo's win over Leitrim. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Tommy Conroy found the net in Mayo's win over Leitrim. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The gulf between the best and the rest in Gaelic football was painfully evident in this extremely one-sided Connacht semi-final in Castlebar.

Even though they were without eight first-choice players through a combination of injury and Covid-19 issues defending champions Mayo crushed Division 4 side Leitrim by 24 points.

Having failed to win a competitive game since March 1 2020, Leitrim’s form was particularly poor so their chances of pulling off their first ever away championship win over Mayo was remote even before the ball was thrown in.

But Mayo learned little from an encounter in which they equalled their biggest previous win over Leitrim achieved in 1973.

Though they beat Sligo and Leitrim by a combined tally of 44 points, their Connacht final opponents Galway probably learned more from their single encounter against Roscommon.

Aidan O’Shea made his 150th appearance for Mayo – only Andy Moran, Keith Higgins and Kevin McLoughlin have played more.

Castlebar Mitchels Rory Byrne made his debut in goal for Mayo – his only inter-county experience had come in the FBD league – while in two late changes Jordan Flynn and Darren Coen replaced Eoghan McLaughlin and Bryan Walsh respectively.

Mayo’s physical superiority was evident right from the start as they repeatedly stripped Leitrim off possession and three of Mayo’s seven first-quarter points came from turnovers.

As the rain poured down it was 0-8 to 0-2 at the first water break. Mayo full back Padraig O’Hora rescued rookie goalkeeper Byrne, who allowed a cross from Mark Plunkett squirt through his hands. Then a mistake by Leitim defender David Bruen on the other wing allowed a mis-directed pass from Conor Loftus roll though to Darren Coen, who found the net from close range.

Conor Dolan’s excellent point – their first from play – gave Leitrim some respite but that was short lived as Mayo’s Darren McHale scored two goals within the space of sixty seconds to put the game way beyond the reach of the underdogs.

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Defenders Paddy Durcan and Oisin Mullin were instrumental in engineering the first, while the second was created by the influential Tommy Conroy. The beaten All Ireland finalists led 3-11 to 0-4 at half time as the gulf in class, physicality and desire between the sides was all too evident.

Ryan O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy hit a brace of Mayo’s goals in the first seven minutes of the second half as the game threatened to turn into a complete rout.

Leitrim did enjoy more possession in the third quarter and actually scored four points on the spin as Mayo began to run their bench and their play became increasingly scrappy. Credit to Leitrim for their effort but they were completely outclassed as Mayo romped to record-equalling 24-point win, with all but three of Mayo’s scored coming from play.

Scorers: Mayo: R O’Donoghue 1-6 (3f), D McHale 2-1; T Conroy D Coen 1-3 each, M Ruane, C Loftus 0-2 each. S Coen, A O’Shea 0-1, J Carr each.

Leitrim: K Beirne 0-5 (5f), R O’Rourke, C Dolan 0-2 each, P Maguire, E Sweeney 0-1 each

Mayo: R Byrne; E Hession, P O’Hora, M Plunkett; P Durcan, O Mullin, S Coen; M Ruane, A O’Shea; C Loftus, D McHale, J Flynn; T Conroy, D Coen, R O’Donoghue. Subs: J Carr for Conroy (45), C Boyle for Durcan (51), F McDonagh for Ruane (57), A Orme for D Coen (60), J Coyne for Mullin (65)

Leitrim: B Flynn; C Reynolds, D Wrynn, M Diffley; C McGloin, P Maguire, D Bruen; J Gilheaney; M Plunkett; C Dolan, S Moran, T Prior; D Rooney, K Beirne, S Quinn. Subs: E Sweeney for Rooney ht; R O’Rourke for McGloin ht; K Keegan for Diffley (45), A Hoare for Wrynn (49), J Mitchell for Bruen (51)

Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford

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