Mayo's long trip to Celtic Park in Derry proved to be a fruitful one, as they came home with two more league points in the bag and their place in division one of the national league for another year all but secure. Mayo's three point win, was a hard fought affair but they could have left with an even bigger winning margin if Eoin Bradley hadn't bagged a goal with the very last kick of the game. Mayo had to make a number of changes from the side that lost out to Dublin the previous week with Alan Dillon coming back into the side after his travels over the winter for Alan Freeman, while Kieran Conroy replaced the injured Ronan McGarrity in the middle of the park and Liam O'Malley made his first start of the league in place of the injured Peader Gardiner. Dillion in particular's return was a welcome one for Mayo supporters as the Ballintubber man showed no ill effects of his travels south of the equator and his footballing brain is very much still working at the level that Mayo need if they are going to make a dent in this years's championship. Liam O'Malley also acquitted himself very well on the night doing all that was asked of him and made a telling number of interceptions in this high scoring affair. One worry for Mayo though for later in the year will be the amount of space that Eoin Bradley was able to find in front of Ger Cafferkey when both men went one to one. Bradley was able to get out in front of his man a number of times in the opening half and with ease on two occasions, had too much power for the Ballina man as he pushed him aside in contact.
That said, two points was the objective and that was what Mayo got, all though there was a stage in the middle of the second half when Derry had cut a 2-8 to 0-6 lead after Aidan O'Shea's goal back to a more manageable target and Mayo looked on the ropes, with Derry over running the midfield and Mayo were really on the back foot. It took Alan Dillon all of 90 seconds to mark his comeback with a score, when he pointed from a free after Enda Varley was hauled down. The Garrymore man then doubled the lead a couple of minutes later from a free himself out on the right. Mayo went three clear when Varley who got good change out of the Derry defence popped over his second of the evening, when a Andy Moran shot came back of the post into the arms of Dillion who teed up Varley to pop the size five over the bar. Derry were by no means on the back foot at this stage as Eoin Bradley was giving Cafferkey a tough time already, winning three balls into him with ease inside the first nine minutes, it was from one of these balls in that Cafferkey hauled him down and gave Lee Moore the chance to put the home sides first score on the board for the game. The Derry full forward closed the gap to the minimum on 11 minutes when he was set up by Mark Lynch, before he drove a great score over the bar from the stand side of the field. With a quarter of a hour gone, Derry captain Gerard O'Keane scored a huge point from out the country to level things up as both sides got caught up to the pace of the game.
Mayo were looking to play the game fast and efficient delivering the early ball into the forwards, but to often for their liking, the man delivering the ball took too long on it and the chance was missed. It did come off in the 18th minute when a Derry shot came back off the post and it was quickly recycled up field though the hands of Seamus O'Shea and Kieran Conroy before Trevor Mortimer latched on to the final ball to drill a score. But the lead didn't last too long as Lee Moore was given the chance to level it up from a free which he did with ease. It was tough going for both sides out there as they made it hard for each other, Mayo though clipped on two more quick scores with Aidan O'Shea pointing from the left hand side after his brother Seamus and Andy Moran were involved in the build up and Alan Dillion popped over a free, after what looked like a harsh call on Mark Lynch who went to shoulder the Ballintubber man. With six minutes left Paddy Bradley hit his sides last score of the game, after his brother Eoin once again got the better of Cafferkey and laid the ball off to Mark Lynch before Paddy took on responsibility for the shot. However, with three minutes left on the watch before the break, the game turned in Mayo's favour. Alan Dillon took a free from the very limit of his range. The ball dropped short and in a defensive blunder, two Derry defenders went for the ball together which both missed, Andy Moran was waiting behind and blasted the ball to the back of the net from close range. Dillion added on another point from a free just before the break to leave Mayo leading by 1-7 to 0-5.
Derry were first to draw blood in the second half, through a Paddy Bradley free from just outside the 14 yard line, which was then cancelled out on 41 minutes by a Enda Varley point, the Garrymore man did well to keep a Trevor Mortimer shot which was in danger of crossing the sideline before the end-line and cutting in and fisting the ball over the bar.
The decisive score of the game came 11 minutes into the second half when Alan Dillon took a shot at goal that didn't have enough legs on it to carry, but Aidan O'Shea was following up and fisted the ball to the back of the net to put Mayo eight points clear. But rather than throw in the towel the Ulster men dug deep and came back at Mayo rattling off three quick scores from Charlie Kielt, Gerard O'Keane and Eoghan Bradley. The home-side now wrestled complete control of the game for a couple of minutes and with 14 minutes left had the gap back to three points thanks to points from Paddy Bradley (2 ) and Mark Lynch with sub Chris Barrett replying for Mayo. The visitors wer able to weather the storm and Seamus O'Shea points from the stand side, then Andy Moran chipped in with a point from play before captain Trevor Mortimer stretched the lead back out to six with two minutes left. The three point salvo was needed to secure the points when at the death Eoin Bradley put the ball past David Clarke to cut the gap to just one.
Mayo: D Clarke; K Higgins, G Cafferkey, L O'Malley; D Vaughan, T Howley, K McLoughlin; T Howley; T Parsons, K Conroy; A Moran (1-1 ), S O'Shea (0-1 ), T Mortimer (0-2 ); E Varley (0-3,1f ), A Dillon (0-3,3f ), A O'Shea (1-1 ). Subs: C Barrett (0-1 ) for Cafferkey (39 mins )
Derry: M Dunne; M McGoldrick, K McCloy, D McBride; C Kielt (0-1 ), M Lynch (0-1 ), G O'Keane (0-2 ); Patsy Bradley, J Kielt; F Doherty, Paddy Bradley (0-3, 2f ), A McLaughlin; R Wilkinson, E Bradley (1-2 ), L Moore (0-2,2f ). Subs: J Diver, M Craig, E Browne
Ref: C Reilly (Meath )