Tuesday 12 December 2017

Conor McManus the likely hero as Monaghan condemn Mayo to defeat in Castlebar

May0 0-12 Monaghan 1-11

Mayo and Monaghan players tussle during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 1 match between Mayo and Monaghan at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Mayo and Monaghan players tussle during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 1 match between Mayo and Monaghan at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Mayo’s seasons of discontent rumbled into the spring in Castlebar tonight when they lost to Monaghan for the first time since the Ulster side returned to the top flight in 2015.

Last autumn it was Mayo’s agonising one point loss to Dublin in the All-Ireland final replay which left them shattered. While still regrouping they were hit by a GAA version of a nuclear winter when former team bosses 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 two point win, though they finished the game with 14 men.

It’s a victory which sets them up perfectly for the league campaign in which their primary focus will be on staying in the top flight.

Inevitably it was Conor McManus who was the their hero hitting six points and setting up what proved the match winning 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 Clarke to deny McCarthy a Monaghan 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 Monaghan 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 from 20 minutes through Darren Hughes to lead 5-1.

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 after a foul on Jason Doherty made it a two-point game as the Monaghan wides tally crept 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 Monaghan Drew Wylie to win the aerial ball. The home’s side second quarter comeback was completed a minute from the break when Evan Regan converted a difficult free to give his side a 6-5 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 it over the line.

Having failed to score from play in the first half, the Monaghan forwards hit two points within as many minutes and though they were split by a brace of pointed frees from Cillian O’Connor, Monaghan had suddenly taken control. A brilliant long-range converted free in the 48th minute from goalkeeper Rory Beggan confirmed this trend as they stretched their lead to three points.

With tempers getting frayed the game became disjointed, but it was Monaghan who continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over with McManus hitting his fifth point.

Given the nature of the exchanges it was inevitable that 30 players wouldn’t finish 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 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, Cillian O’Connor, hit a free to leave a score between the sides but it was McMaus who had the final say with a sublime point from near the left hand touch line to seal a famous win for the Farney County.

The official attendance was 10,817

Mayo: D Clarke; D Newcombe, K Higgins, P Durcan; C Boyle, S Coen, D Drake; D Vaughan, D Kirby; F Boland (0-1), K McLoughlin (0-1), J Doherty; E Regan (0-2, 1f), A Freeman (0-1), C O’Connor (0-7, 5f). 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 (0-1, 1f); F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; K O’Connell, K Duffy, N McAdam; D Hughes (1-1), K Hughes; C Walshe (0-1), S Carey, G Doogan (0-1); C McCarthy, T Kerr (0-1), C McManus (0-6, 3f, 1 45), 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)

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