New year, new challenges but a lot of old faces as Mayo saw off the challenge of NUIG in the opening round of the FBD League in Garrymore on Sunday afternoon. A week later than scheduled due to the weather John O'Mahony's Mayo saw off the students thanks in no small part to seven points from the boot of Shrule Glencorrib's Mark Ronaldson. The border clubs corner forward was the star of the show for Mayo, who started with ten of the side who lined out against Meath in Mayo's All Ireland quarter final capitulation in Croke Park last August. In came David Clarke (who probably would have played in Croke Park last year if he didn't pick up an injury earlier in the season ), Castlebar Mitchels Alan Feeney who excelled for the county town side in last years club championship at full back, Chris Barrett at wing back, and Kiltaine's Mikey Sweeney in the opposite corner forward berth to the sharp shooting Ronaldson.
It was a real back to basics game from Mayo who stuck to the tactic of dropping the ball in on top of Aidan O'Shea in the full forward spot, looking for the Breaffy man to win the ball or break it down for the sniping Ronaldson and Sweeney. While Ronaldson was leading the line for Mayo, it was Galway ace Sean Armstrong who lead the line for the students with an impressive display bagging six points over the hour, Armstrong's display will have given John O'Mahony pleanty food for thought ahead of Mayo's National League opener against Galway in McHale Park in three weeks time.
Mayo led the students by 0-6 to 0-5 at the break after both sides got used to the new rules for the first time in a competitive game. It took only three minutes to pass on Roscommon referee Declan Hunts watch to pass before he blew up for the fist time for an illegal hand pass with an open hand, and two minutes later Ronan McGarrity fielded the first mark of the day on front of a health crowd for this time of the season in the south Mayo venue.
Ronaldson hit Mayo's first three points of the day to put them into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after 12 minutes, with Armstrong pointing for the third level side, the same player cut the gap to one point on 14 minutes with a well struck 45. Aidan O'Shea reestablished the two point lead with 13 minutes left in the half when he fisted the ball over the bar from close range after he showed good strength to hold off his marker. Trevor Mortimer then struck a great point to put Mayo three to the good, before students pulled the game level with six minutes left to the break thanks to scores from Conor Devaney, Garath Bradshaw and Armstrong, however Mayo went into the break in the lead thanks a point from Ronaldson after he picked up a knock down from O'Shea.
The second half saw the game slow down as both sides dropped the intensity level, and Mayo showed their experience to put themselves into a 0-10 to 0-7 lead thanks to three points from Ronaldson and another score from newcomer Neil Douglas, the Castlebar man getting his first run out for the seniors following good displays for his club and Mayo's u21 side last season. The students though came back strong near the end with two more Armstong scores leaving the minimum between the sides with a couple of minutes left on the clock. However the final word was left to hometown boy James Killeen who pointed a free from out on the right hand sideline to seal the win for Mayo. Mayo were also reduced to 14 men in the final minutes after Keith Higgins was dismissed for his second yellow card after getting caught up in a brief bout of shoving and fisticuffs.
A win in the bag straight off is a good result for Mayo, but O'Mahony knows tougher tests will lie ahead for his charges. Mayo will play their second game in the FBD League next Sunday in Charlestown against IT Sligo at 2pm.
D Clarke; D Vaughan, A Feeney, K Higgins; P Gardiner, T Howley, C Barrett; R McGarrity, T Parsons; A Moran, P Harte, T Mortimer (0-1 ); M Ronaldson (0-7, 4fs ), A O’Shea (0-1 ), M Sweeney.
Subs used: J Killeen (0-1, 1f ) for Sweeney; J Burke for Howley; N Douglas (0-1 ) for Harte; K Walsh for Mortimer.
L Grant; C O’Connor, D Finnegan, C McDonald; P Domican, K Conroy, C Leyden; D Duffy, P McGee; C Devaney (0-1, 1f ), G Bradshaw (0-1 ), C Kenny; J Egan (0-1 ), J Doherty, S Armstrong (0-6, 4fs ).
Subs used: D O’Gara for Devaney; J O’Brien for Kenny; C Mimnagh for Doherty; A Glynn for Leyden.
Referee: D Hunt (Roscommon )