Mayo win on opening day

GAA: FBD League

Mayo 0-10

Leitrim 0-6

The new Connacht Centre of Excellence just outside of Ballyhaunis saw the FBD League throw in during the middle of the week, but it was the more familiar setting of the club grounds in Ballyhaunis that welcomed Mayo's first foray into senior football for 2012. For some the provincial competitions are nothing more than a slow start to the year with teams only “officially” being allowed to train together since New Years Day. But for the die-hard supporter it's a chance to mark out some of the newer faces as being one for the future or to reckon that “that fella is worth another look” in the next game.

There's no trophies or accolades handed out on the second Sunday in January, but there's always a palpable sense of excitement among supporters before the first ball is thrown in for the first time in the year. James Horan, along with every other manager has to deal with the issue that a number of his top players are away on duty with their colleges in this and other provincial competitions, so Sunday offered him a chance to welcome in some new faces and some older ones to the fold. In came Darren Coen at full forward, Danny Kirby left-half forward and Shane McHale at corner back. The older faces to make a return after an absence included Pat Harte, Barry Moran and Daivtts duo Colm Boyle and Michael Conroy, both of whom have an All Ireland intermediate club semi-final coming up in the near future to look forward to.

But the brass tacks of the issue at hand on Sunday was football and a result. Mayo of course were justifiably favorites going into the game and they came out on top as four point winners in a contest that won't be looked back on as a game of the year, but a number of players put their hand up to make sure that they will be involved come the business end of the season. Barry Moran put in a very good shift in the middle of the park, the Castlebar man who has seen his inter-county career blighted by so many injuries since making his debut in 2005 and he did a lot of good for his case to be a key player in the side come summer time. His attitude, physicality and work rate was echoed by the rest of his team-mates on a soft pitch that cut up underfoot quite often.

Both of the debutants Danny Kirby and Darren Coen showed no fear of the step up. Coen kicked two good points and while he got bogged down at times, the Hollymount Carramore man showed he has a lot to offer at this level. Kirby could be the coming man of this side, he's a big, tough, physical player with a lot of ability, it's not just power that he possess as he showed in taking his point after only 20 seconds had elapsed on the clock. Enda Varley finished up the top scorer on the day and was a bundle of energy throughout and was a handful for the defenders as was Michael Conroy in the opposite corner. There is no doubt in the world that Conroy has bags of ability as he showed for his club side Davitts last year, but he had a off day with the boot and pulled a number of efforts wide that he would normally be expected to convert. But it's only early days yet and Conroy, will get more opportunities to show his ability.

The game itself saw Mayo break off into an early lead through Kirby's effort form the left hand side just after the throw in. It was quickly followed up by an equaliser form Paul Brennan on four minutes, but for the next 12 Mayo took charge and pushed themselves out into a deserved 0-4 to 0-1 lead with points coming form Varley, Coen and Colm Boyle. But rather than push on, Mayo stepped back off the gas a little and Leitrim came back at them and came hard. The physicality of the contest picked up as Leitrim pushed Mayo in the physical stakes and it took a while for Mayo to react. By the break Leitrim had pulled the came back level thanks to a brace of points from James Glancy (Glencar ) and a 45 from goalkeeper Cathal McCarran.

After the break Mayo came out hungry and strong and took over the running of the game, if not by as much on the scoreboard as they would have liked. Enda Varley and Paddy McGowan swapped points inside the opening ten minutes of the half. And then just before the 40 minute mark, Conor Mortimer made his reappearance for Mayo after almost a year out injured. The Parnells man via Shrule Glencorrib got a good reception form the Mayo crowd who came to the game. His first real involvement was to lay off a ball to Darren Coen for a point, which was followed up by a Varley free to leave the score 0-7 to 0-5 after 44 minutes. Mortimer's next involvement was to get the biggest cheer of the day, when he raced onto a cross field ball heading towards the stand side of the field and cracked over a left footed point on the run for the score of the day. The game was always in Mayo's control from that stage on and Mortimer added his second point from a free after he was hauled down close to goal. Mayo were reduced to 14 men near the end when Donal Vaughan was dismissed, but the game was up at that stage. All in all, it was what would be expected from an opening day fixture, it will have given James Horan and his management team some more food for thought over the coming week. But it's still only the start of January and there's a long road ahead yet.


Mayo: E Varley (0-4,3f ), D Coen (0-2 ), C Mortimer (0-2,1f ), D Kirby (0-1 ), C Boyle (0-1 )

Leitrim: J Glancy (Glencar ) (0-2 ), P Brennan (0-1 ), C McCarran (0-1, 1 45 ), P McGowan (0-1 ), D Sweeney (0-1, 1f )

Mayo: D Clarke; S McHale, E Reilly, L Keegan; P Gardiner, D Vaughan, C Boyle; B Moran, S O'Shea; K McLoughlin, P Harte, D Kirby; E Varley, D Coen, M Conroy. Subs: C Mortimer, G Cafferkey, R Feeney.

Leitrim: C McCrann; A Wynne, C Egan, P McGuire; D Beck, J Glancy (St Marys ), W McKeown; P McGowan, C McGowan; P Brennan, R Lowe, G Hickey; C Clarke, J Glancy (Glencar ), R Cox. Subs: D Gilhooly, D Sweeney.

Ref: Michael Duffy (Sligo )


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