Friday 18 January 2019

Ruthless Mayo annihilate sorry Sligo to claim five-in-a-row

Mayo 6-25 Sligo 2-11

Mayo's Lee Keegan celebrates after scoring his side's sixth goal Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Mayo's Lee Keegan celebrates after scoring his side's sixth goal Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrick

Gaelic football’s perennial bridesmaids Mayo are back in the hunt for that elusive All-Ireland title.

Even allowing for the feeble challenge offered by Division 3 side Sligo, the manner of Mayo’s 26 point record win suggests that they will be contenders at the business end of the competition.

It was the first time since the first decade of the last century that Mayo has won five provincial titles on the spin. As there is some historical doubt over their 1910 win this success was particularly sweet in the modern era.

Whether it will be significant depends on what happens in the next two months. For now Mayo’s totally professional demolition of Sligo must be acknowledged.

Their remarkably 6-25 tally was a record score by a team in a Connacht final; their winning margin was also a record and Aidan O’Shea individual tally of 3-4 equalled the previous highest individual tally of 0-13 which Sligo’s Micheál Kearins scored in the 1971 final.

For the second successive match O’Shea gave a tour de force performance. He was listed to play at centre forward but spend virtually the entire contest at full forward where he was sensational.

He won 11 of the 12 balls which went into his sector in the first half and simply brushed aside the challenge of  markers Kevin McDonnell and later Daniel Maye. He created the first two goals which were finished by Cillian O’Connor – who hit 1-7 – and Seamus O’Shea in the first six minutes.

By then with Mayo leading 2-2 to no score the contest was effectively over. By the time Sligo midfielder Niall Murphy hit Sligo’s first point after ten minutes Mayo had already one foot in the quarter final as they led 2-4 to 0-1.

Sligo were incredibly naïve; they opted not to deploy a designated sweeper and instead deployed wing forwards Brian Curran and Neil Ewing to sweep back. At the very least they ought to have double teamed O’Shea who now operates like a one-demolition crew.

In truth the game panned exactly as had been predicted. Mayo pressed up on Sligo’s short-kick outs and the challengers experienced incredible difficulty getting the ball out of their half.  Mayo’s second goal came from a turn-over after a kick out which failed to get beyond their own 20 metre line.

Such was Mayo’s superior physical strength that they brushed aside the physical challenge of the Sligo players. The nature of the exchanges was that there was no yellow cards issues though Sligo lost Brendan Egan to a black card in the 56th minute.

When the contest still had a semblance of being competitive Mayo midfielder Tom Parson was immense winning crucial possession and driving forward.

Aidan O’Shea scored his first and Mayo’s third goal after 22 minutes and although Egan pulled back a goal for Sligo in the 25th minute Mayo responded straight from the kick out  when O’Shea hit his second after substitute Barry Moran – who had replaced Seamus O’Shea – provided the final assist.

By half time Mayo led 4-9 to 1-6 and one didn’t have to be a clairvoyant to work out how the second half would pan out. O’Shea completed his hat trick in the 50th minute though Sligo’s  Pat Hughes had a consolation goal five minutes later.

Mayo gave their bench a run and between them the six substitutes scored six points but in the end it was mere target practice. They now face either Donegal, Tyrone or Galway – depending on the qualifier draw – in the quarter final.

The fact that they conceded 2-11 and coughed up two more goal chances against a team which was effectively being over-run will be a source of concern for team bosses Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes.

Sligo, meanwhile, face a massive task in trying to revive their fortunes before their qualifier match against Tyrone.

The official attendance was 23, 149.

Mayo: D Clarke; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan (0-2), S O’Shea (1-0), T Parsons; D O’Connor (0-4), A O’Shea (3-4), K McLoughlin; A Moran, C O’Connor (1-7, 4f, 1 45), J Doherty (0-2). Subs: B Moran (0-1) for S O’Shea 21m, A Dillon (0-1) for Moran ht; B Harrison for Cafferkey 48m; M Ronaldson (0-2) for McLoughlin 51m; P Durcan (0-1) for Keegan 53m; C Barrett (0-1) for Boyle 63m.

Sligo: A Devaney; R Donavan, E  Flanagan, D Maye; K Cawley, K McDonnell, B Egan (1-0); C Breheny (0-1), N Murphy (0-1); B Curran, M Breheny (0-4, 2f), N Ewing (0-1); D Kelly, P Hughes (1-0), A Marren (0-3) Subs: S Gilmartin for Murphy 44m; C Davey for Ewing 50m; J Hynes for C Breheny  56m; E McHugh (0-1) for Egan 56m; N Gaughan for Cawley 58m, L Rree for McDonnell 65m.

Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry)

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