When Andy Moran rounded Cathal McCrann and planted the ball in the back of the Leitrim net for Mayo's second goal in McHale Park on Sunday, the game was over as a contest. It was always going to be a awkward afternoon for Mayo against Leitrim, if Leitrim pushed them on the scoreboard and Mayo just scraped over the line, serious questions would be asked by the faithful. Run up the score and go home easy winners and the quality of preparation for a Connacht final would raise it's head. On Sunday, it turned out to be the latter and it's up to James Horan to make the most of the game between now and the Connacht final against Sligo in three weeks time and prepare his team as well as he can for the challenges ahead.
On the field, Leitrim did give Mayo a few problems early on and the game was nip and tuck right up to the 20 minute mark, when Mayo were leading by only a single point. Emlyn Mulligan was their go to man and the Melvin Gaels man gave Donal Vaughan a very tough first 20 minutes, with Lee Keegan eventual moving across from the wing to pick up the Leitrim centre half forward.
Mayo raced into an early two point lead inside the opening 120 seconds. Cillian O'Connor kicked the first of his six frees to open Mayo's account, after Danny Geraghty was fouled as he tried to break through from the throw in. Alan Dillon kicked Mayo's second point a few seconds later from the left hand side after being set up by Andy Moran. Darren Sweeney pulled one back for Leitrim on three minutes after he broke through from midfield, this was followed by a point from corner back Daniel Beck who marauded down the field to draw the game level after six minutes. Kevin McLoughlin and Mulligan swapped points as the game passed the ten minute mark. Keith Higgins then made sure that Beck wasn't the only corner back to get his name on the scoresheet, when he blitzed through the Leitrim back-line leaving two men trailing in his slip-stream before putting the ball over the black-spot. Lee Keegan was the third defender to score shortly after, Andy Moran slipped in the Westport man with a good pass from the stand side of the pitch. The goal chance looked on as bore down on goal, but under pressure he spilled the ball and scoped the ball over the bar with a fly kick after it bounced back up off the ground. Mulligan kicked his second point to bring the gap back to one from a close in free, before Alan Dillon landed his second point with a great effort form out on the right flank on 19 minutes. Leitrim hit back when Vaughan stood off Mulligan out on the McHale Road side of the ground when he had free kick allowing the Leitrim sharpshooter to play a one-two Adrian Croal to create a better shooting angle, before slotting it over the bar to leave only one between the sides. But Mayo broke straight down the field and hit their first three pointer of the game straight from the kick off. Keegan, Andy Moran and Jason Doherty were all involved in the play to set up Alan Freeman who drove the ball high to the net from close rand to put Mayo four clear and in control after 22 minutes. Danny Geraghty tacked on another point for Mayo shortly after, scoring after a powerful run through the middle, with Mulligan responding from distance for the visitors. Four minutes before the break, Andy Moran put the result beyond any lingering doubts with Mayo's second goal when he finished off a good move involving Donal Vaughan and Danny Geraghty. Mayo ran out the half with points from Barry Moran and Cillian O'Connor to go in leading by 2-9 to 0-7 at the break. The goals from Moran and Freeman had taken the spirit out of the Leitrim fight and they only managed to add on three points in the second half compared to Mayo's 2-11. Kevin McLoughlin hit Mayo's opening point of the half, before Cillian O'Connor kept the scoreboard ticking over with four points from frees on the bounce, before Andy Moran grabbed his second and Mayo's third goal after a fine one two with Michael Conroy. Conroy was one of five changes made by Horan in the second half with established players Ronan McGarrity, Conor Mortimer, Enda Varley and Richie Feeney all coming on for some game time before the end. Horan replaced his entire full forward line giving the trio of Mortimer, Varley and Conroy all a chance to stake a claim for a staring spot for the Connacht final, instead of the likes of Shane McHale, Michael Walsh, Jason Gibbons or Micheál Forde a run out in the championship to give them some extra experience when the result was well decided. All the subs that came on played their part in running up the score on Leitrim before the end with Kevin McLoughlin getting the fourth and final goal before the end.
Mayo Cillian O'Connor (0-6, 6f ), Andy Moran (2-0 ), Kevin McLoughlin (1-2 ) Alan Dillon (0-3 ), Alan Freeman (1-0 ), Conor Mortimer (0-2, 2f ), Keith Higgins (0-1 ), Lee Keegan (0-1 ), Danny Geraghty (0-1 ), Barry Moran (0-1 ), Ronan McGarrity (0-1 ), Enda Varley (0-1 ), Michael Conroy (0-1 )
Leitrim: Emlyn Mulligan (0-7, 5f ), Darren Sweeney (0-1 ), Daniel Beck (0-1 ), Ray Cox (0-1 )
Mayo: David Clarke; Kevin Keane, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle; Barry Moran, Danny Geraghty; Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O'Connor, Alan Dillon; Alan Freeman, Andy Moran, Jason Doherty. Subs: Richie Feeney for Colm Boyle (44 mins ), Ronan McGarrity for Danny Geraghty (48 mins ), Michael Conroy for Jason Doherty (52 mins ), Conor Mortimer for Alan Freeman (52 mins ), Enda Varley for Andy Moran (60 mins )
Leitrim: Cathal McCrann; Daniel Beck, Fabian McMorrow, Paddy Maguire; Colm Clarke, Enda Williams, Wyane McKeon; Darren Sweeney, Shane Moran; Paul Brennan, Emlyn Mulligan, Paddy McGowan; Ray Cox, James Glancy, Adrian Carol. Subs: Robbie Lowe for for Wyane McKeown (8 mins ), Conor Sheridan for Shane Moran (35 mins ), Brian McDonald for Adrian Croal (46 mins ), Gerry Hickey for Paddy McGowan (56 mins ), Kevin Conlon for Robbie Lowe (65 mins )
Ref: Martin Higgins (Fermanagh )