O'Connor shines as Mayo prove too strong for Kildare
Mayo 2-17 Kildare 0-14
Mayo's rehabilitation after their Connacht Championship exit took another firm step in the right direction with a nine-point win over Kildare in MacHale Park.
A power surge just before half-time, reminiscent of some of their best days over the last five years did the damage, yielding 2-2 to ease themselves out of what was shaping like a precarious half-time position.
Diarmuid O'Connor led the charge, hitting 1-5 before going off late to a standing ovation from the strong home following in the 14,557 crowd.
They were able to hold their own after the break despite the imposing presence of Kevin Feely at full-forward which necessitated Aidan O'Shea's placement in his company after Kevin Keane was withdrawn with an apparent injury six minutes into the second half.
Colm Boyle, before he was black carded, Kevin McLoughlin, operating again as a defender and Keith Higgins, who took up positions everywhere were key to Mayo protecting a 10-point interval lead.
But there is room for further improvement as they face a fourth round qualifier against the losers of tomorrow's Connacht or Leinster finals.
At times in the second half Kildare were really able to take the game to them.
Kildare will be bitterly disappointed to have conceded 2-2 in the last nine minutes of the opening half which effectively killed it.
Up to that point they had been holding ground reasonably well against a stiff breeze and more than dominating midfield through Kevin Feely, especially off their own kick-outs.
O'Connor's trio of superb points had pressed the home side into an early 0-4 to 0-0 lead but Kildare eventually got that back to a 0-6 to 0-5 deficit when Neil Flynn landed a second point from distance.
Twice they had penalty claims when Donie Vaughan and then O'Connor were held up at the same end where Aidan O'Shea had benefited from a soft decision seven days earlier. But this time referee Derek O'Mahony wasn't yielding.
The pressure Mayo were applying in contact was telling however and it eventually forced Kildare to crumble.
A turnover off one of their own kick-outs that they had won had them backpedaling furiously and despite David Hyland's initial block on Andy Moran Evan Regan was able to scramble home the first goal on 30 minutes for a 1-7 to 0-5 lead.
It was Mayo's cue to ramp it up impressively. Seamus O'Shea blocked Feely and the counter was swift and decisive, Regan firing over for a six-point lead.
Given how they have worked this season to prevent soft goals after last year's experiences against the big teams Diarmuid O'Connor's waltz through their defence will have really infuriated him.
The "young footballer of the year" should have picked off an early point but he gambled with a further advance and it opened up for him enough to nick a shot beneath mark Donnellan on 34 minutes to extend the lead to nine points.
Kildare were in some turmoil now and Regan might have had a second goal after yet another turnover but for Donnellan tipping over a Regan shot.
The half-time whistle couldn't come quick enough then.
Scorers - Mayo: D O'Connor 1-5, E Regan 1-4 (0-1f), C O'Connor (2fs) J Doherty 0-2 each, K Higgins, P Durcan, A Freeman, C O'Shea 0-1 each.
Kildare: N Flynn 0-5 (2fs, 1 45), F Dowling 0-3, M O'Flaherty 0-2, J Byrne, C McNally, A Smith (f), K Cribbin all 0-1 each.
Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, K Keane, P Durcan; L Keegan, K McLoughlin, C Boyle; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; K Higgins, A O'Shea, D O'Connor; E Regan, A Moran, C O'Connor. Subs: S Coen for Keane (41), A Dillon for Moran (48), B Moran for C Boyle BC (52), J Doherty for Harrison (62), A Freeman for Regan (65), C O'Shea for D O'Connor (68).
Kildare: M Donnellan; O Lyons, D Hyland, C Fitzpatrick; E Bolton, E Doyle, J Byrne; T Moolick, K Feely; M O'Flaherty, F Conway, E O'Flaherty; C McNally, N Kelly, N Flynn. Subs: K Cribbin for M O'Flaherty (ht), F Dowling for Bolton (ht), A Smith for E O'Flaherty ((44), E Callaghan for McNally (49), P Kelly for Fitzpatrick (52). C Healy for Flynn (64).
Referee: Derek O'Mahony (Tipperary)