Mayo have shown plenty of resolve in the Christy Ring Cup this season - getting well beat by Kildare in round one, after a poor league showing the season looked like it could have been slipping through their fingers and a route straight back to the Nickey Rackard Cup could have been a very real possibility.
But they have banded together and stuck to their guns and now they stand just a game away from having a chance of heading back to Croke Park and shot at claiming the Christy Ring Cup.
Derek Walsh’s side have put together three wins in a row following on from that Kildare game on the opening day of the competition and next Saturday they will host Derry, knowing that they have a chance to head back to Croke Park for the third year on the bounce.
On Saturday afternoon in Ballina they had to dig deep and show loads of fighting spirit when things looked to be going against them against the near neighbours in Sligo.
The overall play in the first half appeared to show that Mayo were in trouble with the Yeats County men dominating the general play - but Mayo went in just a point behind and on closer inspection they also hit ten wides into the field end of the pitch in Ballina to Sligo’s two - showing that with a little bit more composure they should have been well in front at the break.
Sligo hit the front early doors with Andy Kilcullen and Conor Hannify snapping over early points before Kenny Feeney swung one over for Mayo two minutes in. Kilcullen edged Sligo back in front not long after before a long range effort from Daniel Huane followed by points from Sean Kenny and Shane Boland had Mayo one up at the ten minute mark.
Sligo responded in kind and three on the bounce had them 0-6 to 0-4 clear near the quarter of an hour mark before Boland landed his second of the day. Three more scored in quick succession from Kilcullen (2 ) and Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch stretched Sligo’s lead out to four, with the aforementioned Sligo duo causing the Mayo defence plenty of issues.
Boland and O’Kelly-Lynch traded points before Feeney and Keith Higgins raised the white flag either side of another O’Kelly-Lynch effort to leave the score 0-11 to 0-9 in Sligo’s favour ten minutes from the short whistle. O’Kelly-Lynch pushed that out to a three point gap, but Mayo kept up their resistance and points from Joe McManus and Boland had it back to a one point game as injury time approached.
Kilcullen got another for Sligo - before Huane hammered over his second of the day after good work by Higgins to leave the score at 0-13 to 0-12 in the visitors favour at the turn around.
Two Boland frees either side of a Tomás Cawley effort saw the game levelled up two minutes into the second half. The disaster looked to have struck for Mayo. Bobby Douglas failed to clear his lines properly and the ball fell to Conor Hannify who drove it to the back of the net for the first goal of the day and pushed Sligo three to the good.
They then hit a series of wides to keep Mayo alive in the contest and a Boland free calmed the nerves before a long ranger from Keith Higgins brought the game back to the minimum. Higgins was dispatched to the edge of the square with Joe McManus coming out to the middle of the field and it paid dividends almost instantly.
The ball was let into to Boland who won it well and laid it off Higgins who was able to create the space he needed to fire it home. McManus then let fly with an effort of his own and not long after Mayo raised their second green flag of the day.
Higgins was once again involved and he fed the ball to Kenny Feeney who swept it to the back of the net and Mayo were 2-17 to 1-15 up and when Boland landed another free a minute later they were six to the good and it was just a matter of seeing the game out which they did comfortably in the end and booked a showdown with Derry next weekend.
Mayo: Shane Boland (0-12, 11f ), Keith Higgins (1-2 ), Kenny Feeney (1-2 ), Joe McManus (0-2 ), Daniel Huane (0-2 ), Adrian Phillips (0-1 ), Sean Kenny (0-2, 1f ), Patrick Lyons (0-1 )
Sligo: Andy Kilcullen (0-10,8f ), Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch (0-6, 3f, 1 65 ), Conor Hannify (1-1 ), Joe McHugh (0-2 ), Tomás Cawley (0-1 )
Mayo: Bobby Douglas; Brian Hunt, Gerard McManus, Paul Kirwin; Mark Phillips, Stephen Coyne, David Kenny; Keith Higgins, Daniel Huane; Sean Kenny, Joe Mooney, Adrian Phillips; Joe McManus, Kenny Feeney, Shane Boland. Subs: Conal Hession for Brian Hunt, Keelan Gallagher for Keith Higgins, Patrick Lyons for Daniel Huane, Eoghan Roe for Kenny Feeney, Conor Murray for Joe Mooney
Sligo: Jimmy Gordon; Niall Kilcullen, Niall Feehily, Kevin O’Kennedy; Gavin Connolly, Rory McHugh, Fionn Connolly; Finnian Cawley, Patrick Foley; Tony O’Kelly-Lynch, Gerard O’Kelly, Lynch, Conor Hannify; Joe McHugh, Andy Kilcullen, Tomás Cawley. Subs: Eoghan Rua McGowan for Conor Hannify (BS ), Kevin Gilmartin for Tony O’Kelly-Lynch, Eoghan Rua McGowan for Fionn Connolly, Ruairi Brennan for Andy Kilcullen, Ronan Molloy for Kevin O’Kennedy, Ronan Redmond for Gavin Connolly
Ref: James Clarke (Cavan )