Monday 25 June 2018

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Mayo turn on the style to rack up huge score and blitz Limerick

Mayo 5-19 Limerick 3-7

Evan Regan of Mayo shoots at goal despite the efforts of Paul Maher, Sean O'Dea, and Garrett Noonan of Limerick
Evan Regan of Mayo shoots at goal despite the efforts of Paul Maher, Sean O'Dea, and Garrett Noonan of Limerick

John Fallon

Another Mayo journey through the qualifiers is up and running and their loyal band of followers, who thronged in their thousands to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, will hope that it will again lead all the way to Croke Park in September.

The road has been bumpy over the past two summers and when Sean McSweeney slotted home a fourth minute penalty for Limerick, the huge Mayo crowd in the Gaelic Grounds must have feared the worst.

But with captain Cillian O'Connor leading the way, the All-Ireland finalists took charge and quickly wore down the Limerick resistance.

O'Connor kicked three points from play to level the match after nine minutes and it was only a matter of time before they pulled away.

Limerick goalkeeper Donal O'Sullivan did well to deprive Evan Regan after 13 minutes, while corner-back Paul Maher did well to deprive O'Connor with another goal chance three minutes later.

But Mayo picked off three rapid points, O'Connor getting a 45 and then James Durcan, a late replacement for Andy Moran, and Aidan O'Shea got in on the scoring act to lead by 0-6 to 1-0 after 20 minutes.

Limerick, who matched Mayo's four wides in the opening half, got a brief reprieve when Iain Corbett pointed from the right, but Mayo finished the half very strongly.

Inevitably, O'Connor was involved in the opening goal, a neat flick putting Regan through and he unselfishly returned the ball to his captain who finished to the net from close range.

Chris Barret, wing-back Colm Boyle and O'Connor again turned the screw before the break to lead by 1-10 to 1-1 at the interval.

It left Limerick with a near impossible task in the second-half, with Mayo showing little sign of taking their foot off the pedal as their good passing game kept them in charge.

Limerick corner-forward Jamie Lee pointed just eleven seconds after the restart but Aidan O'Shea brushed off a series of tackles to cancel it at the other end.

Mayo drafted in Lee Keegan for his first action since being injured in the league against Tyrone and the 2016 Footballer of the Year looked sharp when introduced.

Mayo continued to pick off points and led by 1-14 to 1-3 after 49 minutes. Limerick rallied and impressive sub Seamus O'Carroll got the first of his two goals but there was never any hope of a real comeback as Mayo led by 1-16 to 2-7 before they cut loose in the final 16 minutes.

Mayo blitzed Limerick for 4-3 in a devastating eleven minute spell which saw O'Connor twice blast to the net inside three minutes.

And Footballer of the Year Andy Moran then took over, finishing to the net after being set up by O'Connor before quickly adding a second as the Mayo defence collapsed.

By the end ten Mayo players found the target as they dished out a warning that they have stomach for the battle through the back door again this summer.

Another season is over for Limerick but at least they finished with a third goal when sub O'Carroll slotted home a penalty in the dying moments but it was not enough to stop Mayo chalking up their biggest ever qualifier win.

The road will undoubtedly get tougher for Mayo from here but this was as good a way as any to kickstart another summer odyssey and who knows where it will take them this time.

Getting Keegan back on the field is a timely boost for manager Stephen Rochford and he will hope that this impressive display will restore their confidence as they await their next opponents in the draw.

But this was a timely reminder that Mayo have not gone away.

Scorers – Mayo: C O'Connor 3-9 (1-0 pen, 0-5f, 0-1 '45); A Moran 2-0; P Durcan & A O'Shea 0-2 each; C Boyle, C Barrett, S Coen, C Hanley, E Regan & J Durcan 0-1 each

Limerick: S O'Carroll 2-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1f);  S McSweeney (1-0, 1-0 pen), I Corbett & Josh Ryan 0-2 each; J Lee & D Neville 0-1 each.

Mayo: D Clarke; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, E O'Donoghue; C Boyle, K Higgins, P Durcan; S O'Shea, A O'Shea; S Coen, K McLoughlin, C Hanley; E Regan, C O'Connor, J Durcan.

Subs L Keegan for Boyle (45), J Doherty for McLoughlin (48), C Loftus for S O'Shea (52), A Moran for K Higgins (53), C Crowe for Hanley (60), S Nally for O'Donoghue (63).

Limerick: D O'Sullivan; S O'Dea, G Noonan, P Maher; P White, I Corbett, C Fahy; D Treacy, J Ryan; D Neville, M Fitzgibbon, P Nash; S McSweeney, J Lee, J Liston.

Subs: S O'Carroll for McSweeney (ht), T McCarthy for Liston (45), P Scanlon for Lee (52), G Browne for Fitzgibbon (57), D Lyons for Neville (61), D Connolly for Nash (65).

Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).

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