Four goals from Castlebar Mitchels attacker Paul Walsh saw Mayo blow past Sligo in the Connacht Minor Football Championship semi-final in MacHale Park on Wednesday evening.
This was the second meeting of the counties in the championship with the Yeats County winning their round three meeting in the round robin stage of the competition - but when it came to the knock-out round Mayo made no mistake putting their opponents to the sword on a glorious evening in the county grounds.
Walsh's personal tally of 4-1 over the hour will take the headlines, but this was a performance based on hard work throughout the field, with Paddy Heneghan putting in a powerful showing in the middle of the park, pulling off a number of eye-catching high catches - while full back Oisin Tunny put in a solid showing on Sligo's Oisin Gorman, who had given him a torrid time in the earlier encounter between the sides.
Mayo may have hit five goals, but they were also wasteful in front of the target, kicking 11 wides in the first half alone, something they will not be able to do when they meet Galway in the Connacht Final in Tuam Stadium this day week. The Tribesmen beat Mayo easily in their round robin game a fortnight ago - but Tomas Morley's young charges will be looking to put that right when they meet again with a provincial title on the line.
This is the second year of the provincial championship being played on a round robin basis before the knock-out stages and Mayo have had five games to date in the championship with another two at least to play, with both the provincial finalists guaranteed spots in the All Ireland quarter-finals - but winning next week will be Mayo's sole focus.
Sligo opened the scoring two minutes in when Jack Davitt slotted over from close range after being picked out by a quick free from Eoghan Smith to get the game up and running. Walsh responded for Mayo with a fine effort, cutting across the ball four minutes in from the left hand side of the field. Ballina's Frank Irwin who was used as a target man for numerous long balls by Mayo, put his side in front for the first time with a neatly finished effort - that was waved wide initially by the umpires - but they were over-ruled by referee Eamon O'Grady and the white flag was raised.
Just before the ten minute mark Walsh pounced for his first goal. A long probing ball in came back off the post and Conor Reid reached highest to palm the ball goalwards - Jack Teape pulled off a great save to keep the ball from hitting the back of the net, but Walsh was on hand at the back post to apply a sumptuous bicycle kick finish to put Mayo 1-2 to 0-1 in front.
There was barely 60 seconds more gone on the stopwatch when Walsh picked up the ball 40 meters out and set off on a mazey run that he finished to the bottom corner of the net with a deft finish and Mayo were seven to the good.
Twelve minutes before the interval Paddy Heneghan drove over a long range point for Mayo following some incisive build-up play involving Reid and Rory Morrin - who had come on as a black card replacement for Dylan Thornton on 13 minutes.
Sligo registered their second point of the day on 21 minutes through an Eoghan Smith close range free after Davitt was hauled down as he broke towards goal. That was responded to not long after by a Ciaran Mylett point, following some patient build-up play, to leave Mayo 2-4 to 0-2 in front. Smith tapped over his second pointed free of the day on 27 minutes before points from Morrin and Shaun Dempsey put a full stop on the scoring for the half - which ended with Mayo leading 2-6 to 0-3.
Sligo knew they would have to do something special after the break if they were going to get back into this one - they did manage to get the first two scores of the terminal period from a brace of well struck 45' from the boot of Dylan Walsh.
Frank Iriwn kicked Mayo's seventh point of the day seven minutes into the second half - which amazingly was the last time they raised the white flag for the contest - but they did manage to raise the green flag three more times before the end.
The first of those goals came just before the three quarters mark, when Walsh completed his hat-trick after he was picked out by Ruairi Keane, following a strong run by the centre-half-back. Sligo hit back with 1-2 over a few minutes with Davitt getting their goal with a close range finish after being picked out by Oisin Hynes - but it was too little, too late for the Yeats County side.
Ciaran Mylett ran in Mayo's fourth goal and Walsh their fifth and his fourth with three minutes of normal time left to cap a performance that he will remember for the rest of his life, while Sligo tagged on three more points before the end to see Mayo run out 12 point winners at the end of the hours play.
Mayo: L Jennings; A Morrison, O Tunney, A Cosgrove; S Dempsey (0-1 ), R Keane, E Gilraine; P Heneghan (0-1 ), E Henry; C Mylett (1-1 ), R Hughes, D Thornton; P Walsh (4-1 ), C Reid, F Irwin (0-2 ). Subs: R Morrin (0-1 ) for Thornton (BC ), O McHale for C Reid, E Murphy for A Morrison, C O’Connell for R Hughes, M Tighe for P Heneghan, N Feeney for P Walsh
Sligo: J Teape; S Muldowney, M Connolly-McGowan, O Hynes; C Mulligan, C McKeown, C Finn; J Keaney, J Lavin; O McDonagh, E Smith (0-4 ), J Davitt (1-2 ); L Deignan, C Gorman, G Duffy (0-2 ). Subs: D Walsh (0-2, 2 45’ ) for C Finn, L Casserly for L Deignan, K Feely for S Muldowney
Ref: E O’Grady (Leitrim )