Mayo 2-8 GMIT 1-5
A improved second half performance from Mayo saw them get the James Horan era off to a winning start in McHale Park on Saturday night. Last year's minor captain Cillian O'Connor was the main man for Mayo scoring 1-6 on his debut, five of the points coming from placed balls along with a peach of a score in the second half. O'Connor's scoring display will see the Ballintubber teenagers reputation continue to rise in the game. However for another debutant it wasn't as good a night to remember with Tourmakeady's Kevin Dolan having to be carried off after only seven minutes.
A healthy crowd of around 2,000 turned up for the first game in the county ground under lights and by half time many of them would have being wondering to themselves why they had bothered to come at all. In the first half Mayo were very poor, choosing to try and hand-pass the ball through the GMIT defence on too many occasions rather than let the ball do the work. Even when Mayo got close to scoring distance, things didn't improve much either. In the opening 30 minutes they kicked the ball wide eight times and dropped it short into goalkeeper Brendan Walsh from Ballintubber's hands on at least three more occasions. While it is only early doors in the season and Mayo were with out a number of big name players who are involved with their respective college sides, James Horan and his brains trust will have seen that there is big job ahead of them in 2011.
Getting off to a winning start was always going to be important to start the year on the front foot, but the fact that only three Mayo players scored in the whole game, and only four of those scores came from play is something that will have to be addressed in the coming weeks.
Mayo trailed at half time by two points going in 1-1 to 0-3 down at the break. Mayo's three first half points came from the boot of Cillian O'Connor who looked to have re-found some of the form which he looked to have lost at the tail end of 2010. The Ballintubber starlet was composed all evening from the placed ball and when the opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net presented itself, he applied a calm and composed finish past his club-mate in the GMIT goal. The opening score of the game came from the boot of Stephen Griffin for the students. The Donegal man was himself in great form from placed balls for the students throughout. The first goal of the game came 12 minutes in when Griffin dropped a free short which was flapped at by David Clarke in the Mayo goal, which gave Eric Monahan the easy task of finishing the ball to the back of the net from close range. Mayo who had already the wide count will ticking over at that stage managed to get on the scoreboard in the 13th minute when O'Connor landed the first of his six points for the evening from a free. He tacked on two more scores before the break to narrow the gap to two.
The second half saw a fresh impetus from Mayo with Ronan McGarrity coming into the game a lot more in the middle of the park. The Ballina man kicked two scores from play in the second period one from each side of the pitch. Both of the scores were landed from the pocket out near the sideline between the 50 yard and 21 yard line where McGarrity has shown himself to be especially deft in hitting the target from over the years.
Mayo were able to find more momentum as the second half went on with GMIT hanging on only because of the place kicking of Griffin. The turning point of the game came with 47 minutes gone. Mayo had just pushed themselves into the lead for the first time in the contest. Swinford's Aidan Campbell took a shot for a point which came back off the post and O'Connor was in the right place at the right time to finish to the net. He followed the goal up with the score of the day from the stand side of the field bending a shot from 35 yards out just inside the far post which put Mayo 1-7 to 1-3 up with seven minutes left on the clock. Mayo's second goal came from the penalty spot through sub Mark Ronaldson who drove the spot kick to the right hand corner of the net, after Aidan Campbell was adjudged to have been fouled, in what looked like a very soft decision. McGarrity applied the full stop on Mayo's scoring shortly after, while GMIT closed the gap thanks to a couple of Griffin frees.
It wasn't great, but at this stage of the year, you wouldn't expected it to be. But James Horan will be happy that his side have a win under their belts already. Next up is the Connacht champions Roscommon in Ballyhaunis as the lights went out in McHale Park until Down come to town at the start of next month.
Mayo: D Clarke; C Hallinan, G Cafferkey, A Feeney, J Burke, M Nestor, C Barrett; R McGarrity, J Moran; A Campbell, A O'Malley, A Kilcoyne; K Dolan, A Moran, C O'Connor. Subs: E Varley for K Dolan, M Ronaldson for A O'Malley, D Killeen for G Cafferkey, R O'Connor for C Barrett, L Keegan for A Feeney.
GMIT: B Walsh, A Tierney, C Boyle, D Crawford; D Lee, A Thompson, C Hands; C McCafferty, S Boyle; S O'Kennedy, S Griffin, G Cafferkey; N Prenty, M Joyce, E Monahan. N Prenty for M Joyce, M Coady for E Ward, D McIntyre for S O'Kennedy.
Ref: J Molloy (Galway )