Mayo 2-21 Down 1-11
James Horan’s decision to place his trust in Mayo’s young guns paid rich dividends at Elvery’s MacHale Park, Castlebar, yesterday, where the home side eased to a comfortable 13-point victory over Down in this Allianz FL Division 2 North opener.
The worry for the Mayo manager was what impact might occur following the decision of six of the county’s top players — David Clarke, Keith Higgins, Seamus O’Shea, Chris Barrett, Donal Vaughan and Tom Parsons — to retire in quick succession.
From what we saw of Mayo’s return to Division 2 following relegation for the first time in 23 years from the top-flight, it would seem there are ready and able replacements to stand in.
That said, experienced heads like Cillian O’Connor — who guided over eight points from placed-balls — Lee Keegan, Robbie Hennelly, Kevin McLoughlin and Matthew Ruane were very much guiding influences behind this victory.
Mayo, who never fell behind in this game after Cillian O’Connor had fired them into the lead with a free inside the first minute, were well on control by the break, leading by 1-10 to 0-6, although the contest might have been closer had Down put away few good point-scoring opportunities.
Down trailed by 0-3 to 0-1 after 12 minutes, their opening score coming from Daniel McGuinness, as Tommy Conroy, Michael Plunkett and another Cillian O’Connor free had Mayo in control.
Down drew on level terms at 0-4 apiece, Barry O’Hagan and Corey Quinn on target, but that was as close as they got to Mayo in that first half.
A superb goal from Tommy Conroy on 15 minutes put Mayo firmly in the driving seat as Fionn McDonagh, full-back Oisín Mullin and Jordan Flynn fired over some fine points to extend the lead to seven points at the break.
Down needed an early scoring burst to have any hope of getting back into a game which was hit by some torrential showers in that second half, but inside five minutes they had conceded 1-1.
Matthew Ruane kicking the opening point before Conroy turned provider. His burning pace opened up a hug gap in that Down defence to set up Ryan O’Donoghue, who drilled low to the net for Mayo’s second goal to put the home side 2-12 to 0-6 ahead.
Horan wasted no time in emptying his bench and that may have been part of the reason why Mayo lost their shape going into the fourth quarter — Down coming back with a fine goal of their own from substitute Stephen
McConville — but there was never any doubt about the outcome as Mayo, who have Westmeath away next weekend, took a big step towards regaining their status in Division 1.
Scorers - Mayo: C O’Connor 0-8 (6f, 1 ’45), T Conroy 1-3, R O’Donohgue 1-1, M Ruane 0-2, F McDonagh, O Mullins, J Flynn, E McLaughlin, M Plunkett, B Walsh, D O’Connor 0-1 each. Down: B O’Hagan 0-5 (4f), S McConville 1-0, C Quinn 0-3 (1m, 1f), P Laferty, J McGuinness, D Guinness 0-1 each.
Mayo: R Hennelly, E Hession, O Mullin, L Keegan, M Plunkett, P Durcan, R Brickenden, M Ruane, R O’Connor, F McDonagh, K Mcloughlin, J Flynn, T Conroy, C O’Connor, R O’ Donoghue. Subs: E McLaughlin for Brickenden (h-t), B Walsh for Flynn (h-t),S Coen for K McLoughlin (48) A Orme for O’Donoghue (48), C Loftus for F McDonagh (49), J McCormack for D O’Connor (62), C Boyle for Keegan (66).
Down: R Burns, G Collins, G McGovern, P Murdock, P Laverty, K McKernan, J Flynn, R McEvoy, C Mooney, C Doherty, C Poland, D McGuinness, B O’Hagan, J Guinness, C Quinn. Subs: L Kerr for Doherty (33), O McCabe for Poland (40), L Middleton for McEvoy (49), S McConville for D McGuinness (50), B McCardle for Murdock (65), D O Hagan for Collins (66).
Referee: F Kelly (Longford).