It’s been a tough Spring semester for Mayo and the learning went up another notch in Clones on Sunday.
Monaghan upped the gears and intensity in the second half in this one and outscored Mayo 1-11 to 0-5 to run out nine point winners and put last years league champions in a perilous position as the league rounds it’s final corner and stretches out for home.
James Horan made two changes to the side he named earlier in the week with James Durcan and Jordan Flynn coming into the starting 15 along with Keith Higgins, Conor Loftus and Paul Towey coming into the match day squad after not being named in the starting 15.
Mayo started the game well pushing up on Rory Beggan’s kick-outs and twice the referee blew the Monaghan shot-stopper up for not taking his kick-outs in time. Padraig O’Hora put Mayo into the lead two minutes in and three minutes later Ryan O’Donoghue pointed to have Mayo two to the good.
Ryan Wylie got Monaghan’s first point six minutes in fisting over the bar after the Ulster men had cut through the centre of the Mayo defence something that became a massive thorn in the Mayo defence throughout the game.
Darren Coen hit his first of the day following a strong run by Lee Keegan from the Mayo defence just before the ten minute mark and the same man dropped an effort short from the right hand side a few seconds later.
Conor McManus landed his first point of the day on 12 minutes after Rory Beggan wandered up the field to take a free but rather than take on the point scoring chance he slipped the ball to the unmarked Wylie who played in McManus to shoot over the bar.
Monaghan levelled it up on the quarter of an hour when Karl O’Connell after he was played by Conor Boyle, the Monaghan number five could have taken on a goal chance but drove it over the bar.
Mayo edged themselves back in front through a Jordan Flynn long range effort and that was quickly followed points from McManus and James Durcan to keep Mayo’s noses just in front.
Oisin Mullin drove up form the defence to kick Mayo’s sixth of the day on 23 minutes - but the game was about to take it’s first big swing in the favour of Moaghan when Conor McCarthy was able to evade two tackles in the Mayo defence and break through to drive the ball low to the net to put Monaghan into a 1-4 to 0-6 lead ten minutes before the break.
Three minutes later Beggan drove over a pointed free to push Monaghan into a two point lead, but Mayo kept plugging away before the break and Darren Coen and Diarmuid O’Connor tagged on scores before the short whistle to send the sides in level at the break on a score of 0-8 to 1-5.
Monaghan opened the scoring in the second half with Darren Hughes pulling off a great dummy to create the space to arc the ball over the bar from the stand side of the field to put his side back in front again.
Mayo levelled it up with a pointe free from Kevin McLoughlin after Aidan O’Shea was fouled - but points from Jack McCarron and McManus kept the Monaghan scoreboard ticking over as they started to get control of the game in the middle third of the field and the contest as a whole.
Monaghan kept the scoreboard moving with McManus and McCarthy pointing before McLoughlin got his second of the day with 15 minutes to go - to pull the difference back to two points.
McCarthy and McLoughlin traded points in quick succession - but it looked that Mayo were going to need to get a goal to wrestle control of this game and they never really looked all day like creating a chance they could possibly take.
The next major incident in the game was the defining moment of the contest - Jordan Flynn was shown a second yellow for what slight enough foul in the middle of the field, the Crossmolina man had been skating on thin ice after picking up a yellow earlier in the day and had gotten away with a few fouls before being shown his second yellow.
From almost the very next play Monaghan plundered their second goal when Kieran Duffy palmed the ball home after some great build up play involving Ryan Wylie and Kieran Hughes and that was all she wrote for this one as a contest.
Monaghan added on five more points before the end with Mayo registering just one in response down the home straight.
All roads lead to Castlebar next Saturday night and the visit of Kerry to MacHale Park and Mayo could really do with a win to get their season back on course, but it’s going to be another very big ask when the Kingdom come calling.
Mayo: Kevin McLoughlin (0-3, 2f ), Darren Coen (0-3 ), Padraig O’Hora (0-1 ), Ryan O’Donoghue (0-1 ), Jordan Flynn (0-1 ), James Durcan (0-1 ), Oisin Mullin (0-1 ), Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1 ), Paul Towey (0-1
Monaghan: Conor McManus (0-6, 3f 1m ), Conor McCarthy (1-3 ), Kieran Duffy (1-0 ), Jack McCarron (0-2, 1f ), Ryan Wylie (0-1 ), Karl O’Connell (0-1 ), Rory Beggan (0-1, 1f ), Niall Kearns (0-1 ), Conor Boyle (0-1 ), Shane Carey (0-1 )
Mayo: R Hennelly; P O’Hora, O Mullin, L Keegan; S Coen, M Plunkett, P Durcan; D O’Connor, A O’Shea; F Boland, R O’Donoghue, J Durcan; K McLoughlin, D Coen, J Flynn. Subs: T Conroy, K Higgins, P Towey, E O’Donoghue, C Loftus
Monaghan: R Beggan; D Wylie, C Boyle, K Duffy; K O’Connell, R Wylie, M Bannigan; D Hughes, N Kearns; R McAnespie, C McCarthy, D Ward; D Malone, K Hughes, C McManus. Subs: J McCaron, C Walshe, S Carey, C McGuinness, P Keenan,