Monday 24 September 2018

O'Connor the star of the show as Mayo flex muscles

Mayo 5-19 Limerick 3-7

Cillian O’Connor on his way to amassing 3-9. Photo: Sportsfile
Cillian O’Connor on his way to amassing 3-9. Photo: Sportsfile

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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.

Cillian O'Connor of Mayo shoots to score his and his side's third goal despite the efforts of Paul Maher of Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile
Cillian O'Connor of Mayo shoots to score his and his side's third goal despite the efforts of Paul Maher of Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile

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.

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 act to see them lead 0-6 to 1-0 after 20 minutes.

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

Chris Barrett, wing-back Colm Boyle and O'Connor then turned the screw to lead by 1-10 to 1-1 at the interval.

Cillian O'Connor of Mayo shoots to score his side's first goal past Limerick goalkeeper Donal O'Sullivan. Photo: Sportsfile
Cillian O'Connor of Mayo shoots to score his side's first goal past Limerick goalkeeper Donal O'Sullivan. Photo: Sportsfile

Limerick corner-forward Jamie Lee pointed just 11 seconds after the restart but 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 11-minute spell which saw O'Connor twice blast to the net inside three minutes.

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

Ten Mayo players found the target in total as they dished out a warning that they have stomach for the battle through the back door again this summer.

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

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 (h-t), 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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