Mayo 2-9 Down 0-9
Ray Dempsey's Mayo are back in the All Ireland final again after a stunning second half display against Down on Sunday in Croke Park. Mayo outscored their northern opponents by 2-5 to 0-2 after the turn around. With Ballintubber's Cillian O'Connor bagging the two goals and Michael Slingermann having the game of his life between the posts for Mayo, where he stopped everything Down could throw at him over the 60 minutes.
It all wasn't looking rosy for Mayo in the first half, even though they only trailed by two points at the break. Down were over running Mayo on the field. The Mourne men's half forward line in particular were causing Mayo serious problems with wing forward Caloan Mooney landing three points from play and pulling a lot of the strings in the Down attack. Mayo were finding it very hard to get the ball into their forward line, and only for the accuracy of captain Aidan Walsh from placed balls could have been out of sight at the break.
But credit to Mayo and their management team who at the break made a number of substitutions and positional switches to counteract Down's threat, with Shane McDermott moving out to mark Mooney and Ciarán Charlton moving to the number six spot, with both Jack McDonnell and Ian Costello making their introduction from the bench as Mayo came out with all guns blazing and Down had no answer for their power play in the second half.
The game started with both free takers getting some early practice, Walsh leveled the game with his first chance four minutes into the opening half to off-set Ross McGarry's first minute opening for the men in red and black. The Mayo captain who lined out at the start of the game at full forward before moving back to the middle of the park where he got through a huge amount of work all day, added a second point to put Mayo into the lead on six minutes. But from then on in it was all Down as the beaten Ulster finalists poured forward in their droves, with the Mayo defense barely hanging on at stages. McGarry landed a 45' and a couple of minutes later Mooney got his second point of the afternoon. Michael Slingermann had been already called into action in the Mayo goal at this stage and pulled off a smart save. With 13 minutes on the clock, Mooney put his side two to the good, finishing off a neat move involving Chris Clarke. Mayo were able to pull a score back thanks to one one of the few penetrative moves they were able to put together in the half: Fergal Durkin dropped the ball into the full forward line where Cillian O'Connor was able to break it down to Darren Coen who popped it over the bar.
Down still had all the play but were unable to turn it into scores on the board, they put the ball wide of the target on six occasions in the opening half which enabled Mayo to stay in touch with them. Mooney kept up his own good performance with another smart score after McGarry and Walsh swapped points. The Down captain McGarry scored a beauty of a point just on 30 minutes when he sold a sweet dummy on the end line at the Davin end of the field, to make an angle for himself to swing over a left foot shot, to put Down 0-7 to 0-4 in the lead. But Walsh cut the gap back to two with a free from the 14 yard line after he was fouled trying to shoot at goal. With the gap only two points Mayo still had it all to play for, and the Mayo management team didn't waste any time in ringing the changes, moving Shane McDermott to wing back to get a grip on Mooney and shifting around the forward line.
Second half turn around
Walsh had the gap back to a point after 32 minutes with an effort from a free close in, then the goal that turned the game on it's head came. Fergal Durkin tried to drop the ball into Alex Corduff, but the big Ballina man missed the ball, which flew into the path of Cillian O'Connor. It was a race between the Ballintubber man and James Deeny in the Down goal, O'Connor got there first and flicked the ball to the back of the net with the outside of his right boot on the deck. Three minutes later Mayo had the ball in the back of the Down net for the second time again through O'Connor. Once again Durkin played the ball, O'Connor won it and off loaded to sub Jack McDonnell whose effort was saved well by Deeney, but O'Connor picked up the rebound and finished to the back of the net to put Mayo into a five point lead which looked improbable only a few minutes earlier. The lead was then six on 40 minutes when Alex Corduff pointed from close in. Down had their chances but were going for goals already at this stage and Slingermann stood up tall on more than one occasion to block efforts from Mooney, Mark Haughey and another Mooney effort when he was one on one with the Kiltimagh number one. Mayo were cruising and two further from Walsh and sub John Carney rounded off the scoring for Mayo, while Down rounded off their scoring with points from Feral McEvoy and McGarry.
Next up for Ray Dempsey and his charges is Armagh in the All Ireland final in three weeks time, and after having the experience of being there last year Dempsey will have his side ready for whatever happens on the day.
Mayo: M Slingermann; D Gavin, K Rodgers, M Walsh; C Charlton, S McDermott, C Crowe; D Kirby, A Walsh (0-6, 6f ); A Farrell, D Coen (0-1 ), F Durkin; D Herbert, C O'Connor (2-0 ), A Corduff (0-1 ). Subs: J Carney (0-1 ), I Costello, J McDonnell, B Ruttledge, M McCormack.
Down: J Deeney; R Doran, S McNamee, D O'Hanlan; K McClory, C McLean, F McEvoy (0-1 ); K Quinn, N McParland; C Clarke, R White, C Mooney (0-3 ); D McKibben, R McGarry (0-5, 1f, 1 45' ), M Bagnall. Subs: M Haughey, R O'Hare, P Quinn, K Maguire.
Ref: Brian O'Shea (Dublin ).