Stephen Rochford praises new Mayo record scorer Cillian O'Connor
Mayo 5-19 Limerick 3-7
Manager Stephen Rochford paid tribute to Cillian O'Connor after the captain became Mayo's all-time top scorer with a haul of 3-9 that put Limerick to the sword at the Gaelic Grounds.
It was an impressive start to what Mayo supporters, who made up the bulk of the 8,230 crowd, will hope is another summer odyssey through the highroads and byroads to Croke Park.
"It is a tremendous personal achievement, coming back for his first start in three months I thought he looked very sharp and he offered us a real good presence in that forward line," said Rochford of O'Connor's performance.
"I'm delighted for him but as he knows himself, as captain of the team, our focus is on the team and it's about the next day. He will be happy if he only gets two points the next day and that's enough to win."
Rochford said they have plenty to work on despite scoring their biggest ever win in the qualifiers on Saturday evening.
The tone was set when the huge Mayo crowd gave injured midfielder Tom Parsons a standing ovation when he hobbled to his seat an hour before the start of the game.
"In any of these games it's about getting the result and getting yourself into the next draw, the next bowl, and that's what we achieved. And I thought we controlled the game after conceding the goal from that early penalty.
"We could have been a bit more ruthless and then conceding three goals is something for us to work on," added Rochford.
A goal from a fourth-minute penalty by Sean McSweeney hinted at a possible shock but Mayo never panicked. O'Connor reeled off three points from play and when he landed a '45 at the end of the opening quarter to edge in front for the first time, you just knew the lead was unlikely to change after that.
O'Connor, with a deft flick which put Evan Regan through, took a return pass to shoot home his first goal five minutes from the break and that helped them lead by 1-10 to 1-1 at the break.
They continued to dominate after the restart and while a goal from impressive sub Seamus O'Carroll cut the gap to 1-15 to 2-5 after 56 minutes, Mayo took control and blitzed the Division Four side with 4-3 in the next eleven minutes, with 2016 Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan coming on for his first action since March. The current Footballer of the Year, Andy Moran, came on to shoot two goals as O'Connor completed his hat-trick with two more in three minutes to get their latest back door journey up and running.
"You bring Lee Keegan and Andy Moran off the bench and sure that says it all, I don't need to elaborate on that," lamented Limerick manager Billy Lee.
"But I felt the three goals towards the end put a bit of a gloss on it for Mayo. I don't think the scoreboard reflected the difference between the teams. I don't think there was that much between us.".
Man of the Match
Mayo's new record scorer, the hat-trick was completed with a couple of late goals. But when Mayo needed inspiration after Limerick's early goal, it was the captain who supplied it with three excellent points from play.
Wides: Mayo 7 (4); Limerick 7 (4)
Frees: Mayo 13 (7); Limerick 10 (6)
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 0-2, Josh Ryan 0-2 (0-2f); 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).
Ref - Niall Cullen (Fermanagh).