Seven days on from claiming the Nicky Rackard Cup in Croke Park, the Mayo senior hurlers completed the job by booking their place in the Christy Ring Cup next season with a 1-21 to 1-14 over Derry in Ballinamore.
Much like last week Mayo came strong in the final third of the game outscoring Derry by eleven points to three after Derry had gone into the lead from Shane Farren’s penalty after 45 minutes. The Oak Leaf men had shown great fight to get back in front for the first time since the third minute of the contest reeling in what was a seven point Mayo lead at one stage in the first half.
But led by some inspirational defending by Ger McManus, David Kenny and Cathal Freeman along with the sharp shooting of Kenny Feeney and the fleet footed attacking play of Fergal Boland Mayo came good down the home stretch.
Derry hit the first score of the game through Shane Farren, but for the next 20 minutes it was all Mayo, with Darren McTigue netting to get Mayo up and running four minutes in after Kenny Feeney had done the hard graft down the touch line. Kiearn McDermott, Cathal Freeman and two scores from Feeney had Mayo 1-4 to 0-1 up after ten minutes and they looked to be in complete control.
Mayo kept up the scoring pressure and with 19 minutes gone they had stretched the lead out to 1-6 to 0-2 thanks to points from David Kenny and Feeney. But Derry were about to hit their own little purple patch as they grew into the game with the physically imposing Ruairi Convery becoming a major player in the contest. The wing-forward hit three points in a ten minute spell with Alan Grant and Mehaul McGrath also notching scores, with Mayo responding through a brace of Feeney points to leaver the score at 1-9 to 0-7 four minutes from the break. Convery raised the white flag twice more before the short whistle and Mayo went in leading by 1-9 to 0-9 and the game was very much back in the melting pot.
The Nicky Rackard champions got the opening score of the second half through that man Feeney, but points from Grant and Farren left just two between the sides with half and hour to go and five minutes later Derry hit the front after Convery was pullled down on his way to goal and Farren gave Donal O’Brien no chance from the penalty driving low to the bottom right hand corner of the net and Mayo were under pressure.
But when the pressure came on Mayo stood tall and they responded straight away with Joe McManus drifting over a score from long range to level it up. Both sides swapped points in the next few minutes by when McManus edged Mayo back in front on a score of 1-13 to 1-12 they never looked back. Feeney hit three on the bounce, then McManus landed another and Mayo were five clear with nine minutes left.
It was just a matter of holding their composure down the home straight for Mayo from this point in and they did that in style adding another four points with scoring completed by John Cotter who batted over three minutes into injury time.
After getting relegated last year, Mayo showed their quality this season losing just twice in 11 league and championship games and they’ll be looking forward to next year and having a crack at establishing themselves in the Christy Ring Cup once more.
Mayo: K Feeney 0-11 (0-8f ), J McManus 0-4, D McTigue 1-0, C Freeman, K McDermott, D Kenny, S Regan, C Charlton & J Cotter 0-1 each.
Derry: R Convery 0-8 (0-4f, 0-1 ’65 ), S Farren 1-3 (1-0 pen ), A Grant 0-2, M McGrath 0-1.
Mayo: D O’Brien; B Hunt, G McManus, E Collins; C Freeman, D Kenny, P Connell; K McDermott, C Charlton; J McManus, C Scahill, S Regan; D McTigue, K Feeney, F Boland. Subs: G Nolan for K McDermott. Subs: G Nolan for K McDermott, A Connolly for C Scahill, J Cotter for G Nolan, S Mulroy for D McTigue
Derry: D McDermott; D McCloskey, C Quinn, E McGuickin; S McCullagh, P Kelly, B Og McGilligan; M McGrath, M Conway, R Convery; A Grant, S Farren, S F Quinn. Subs: T McCloskey for M Conway, C McSorley for B Og McGilligan, G O’Keane for SF Quinn, B Quigley for M McGrath
Ref: J Keane (Galway )