Thursday 22 August 2019

Mayo do enough to keep dream alive

Mayo 1-16 Down 1-11

Mayo’s Evan Regan shields the ball from Kevin McKernan of Down during last night’s qualifier match in Newry. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo’s Evan Regan shields the ball from Kevin McKernan of Down during last night’s qualifier match in Newry. Photo: Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

This performance won't win Mayo an All-Ireland but they did enough and qualifiers, well, they're for qualifying. They move on to the next round, having emerged relatively unscathed from Newry on a warm summer's evening, although not without having endured the usual hair-raising moments along the way.

Experience told in the end. Lee Keegan finished with three points, all in the second half when Mayo needed someone to provide a measure of composure and keep Down from getting ideas above their station.

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Mayo's Fionn McDonagh pulls clear of Down's Kevin McKernan. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo's Fionn McDonagh pulls clear of Down's Kevin McKernan. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy Moran chipped in with two at the age of 35, justifying his selection, and the second came after a spell of carelessness when Mayo spurned chances to bury the Down challenge immediately after grabbing an opportunist second goal.

That goal, from Conor Loftus, followed a bad miss from Jason Doherty, who blazed a goal chance against the upright six minutes after half time.

But Doherty atoned a minute later. After being fouled, he took a quick free to Loftus who was in space near goal and he shot to the net to put Mayo six points clear.

They led by three at half time, 0-10 to 1-4, with Loftus scoring 0-4, after assuming the free-taking duties, which had caused Mayo agony in the defeat by Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final. Loftus skewed one attempt wide in the first half, kicking all his shots from the hands, but he then hit an even harder one over in compensation.

Down's Conor Poland in action against Mayo's Aidan O'Shea. Photo: Sportsfile
Down's Conor Poland in action against Mayo's Aidan O'Shea. Photo: Sportsfile

On the evening it was Down who had the greater trouble with frees, trying four different kickers. They were also wasteful from open play. Mayo left off goalkeeper Robbie Hennelly and recalled the long-serving David Clarke who had an excellent match. In the 58th minute he made a smart save from Donal O'Hare, a ball kicked off the ground from close-range, at a time when a Down goal would have had the home team within two points of Mayo. There was widespread anticipation that Cillian O'Connor would play some part after recovering from injury in recent weeks but he was not even listed among the substitutes.

The promising Westport player Fionn McDonagh made his first championship appearance after making a strong impression during Mayo's league run, and wasted no time in stamping himself on the game by winning the free for the opening score, a Loftus free. In the first half he scored two fine points from play although he faded after half-time. Darren Coen had less luck, an early departure on a black card.

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With Matthew Ruane ruled out with a fractured collarbone, Mayo still dominated midfield where Aidan O'Shea bossed the exchanges. Down tried short restarts to avoid that zone but with Mayo pressing up they were forced to go long on occasions and place the ball at higher risk. Mayo dominated the first half but were still finding Down hard to shake off.

They were rocked by the Down goal in the eight minute from Caolan Mooney.

Down's Conor Francis shows his disappointment. Photo: Sportsfile
Down's Conor Francis shows his disappointment. Photo: Sportsfile

The midfielder was allowed to find a pathway through the heart of the visitors' defence, which was exposed for pace and concentration, the initial penetration coming from a run by Down's Gerard Collins. Mooney also had a goal chance in the second half, again boring a hole through the Mayo defence, which will give James Horan and his backroom team some concern. Mooney's goal raised a huge cheer from the home fans, putting them in front, 1-1 to 0-2, but Mayo were leading 0-8 to 1-2 by the half-hour mark, outscoring Down 0-6 to 0-1 over a 23-minute spell.

Down finished the half promisingly. An excellent point by midfielder Owen McCabe came after a precision kick-out by goalkeeper Rory Burns as Mayo switched off following a break in play.

O'Shea responded well with a point in immediate reply, and the half ended with Donal O'Hare, with Down's first score from a free, and Cathal Barrett trading points.

Conor Francis had a shot for a goal blocked by Colm Boyle in the second half when a goal would have reduced the gap to just three points with 20 minutes remaining. Down were made to pay for those missed opportunities and after O'Hare kicked a late free, scores from Keegan and sub Ciaran Treacy sealed Mayo's safe passage.

Mayo manager James Horan. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo manager James Horan. Photo: Sportsfile

Scorers - Mayo: C Loftus 1-4 (0-3f); L Keegan 0-3; F McDonagh, A Moran 0-2 each; K McLoughlin, C Barrett, A O'Shea, D O'Connor, C Treacy 0-1 each. Down: C Mooney 1-1; D O'Hare 0-3 (0-2 fs); C Harrison, C Quinn 0-2, P Havern, O McCabe, J Johnston 0-1.

Mayo: D Clarke, C Barrett, B Harrison, K Higgins, L Keegan, C Boyle, P Durcan, D O'Connor, A O'Shea, F McDonagh, C Loftus, J Doherty, K McLoughlin, D Coen, A Moran. Subs: E Regan for Coen (b/c 13 mins), F Boland for Doherty (52), M Murray for McDonagh (61), C Treacy for McLoughlin (66), M Plunkett for Moran (72), J McCormack for O;Connor (75)

Down: R Burns; D O'Hagan, B McArdle, G Collins, R McAleenan, K McKernan, P Laverty, O McCabe, C Mooney, C Francis, D Guinness, C Poland, P Havern, D O'Hare, C Harrison. Subs: J Guinness for Laverty (41 mins), J Johnston for D Guinness (47), C Quinn for Haverty (inj 51), B O'Hagan for McCabe (inj 55), P Devlin for O'Hagan (b/c 61)

Referee: F Kelly (Longford)

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