In the end it was a stroll rather than a struggle in Croke Park as Mayo booked their place in the All Ireland semi-final for the second year in a row thanks to a 12 point win over Down on Saturday evening. The only downside on Mayo's emphatic win was the knee injury picked up by captain Andy Moran in the 53rd minute of the contest. Moran looked to badly twist his knee as he competed for possession out near Cusack Stand side of the field. If Moran's injury is a serious one, it will be a huge blow to both him and the team.
Mayo tore into the beat Ulster finalists from the get go, with Michael Conroy, Andy Moran and Cillian O'Connor constantly beating their men to the ball in the full forward line. Conroy got the nod to start the game alongside Aidan O'Shea in two changes from the announced starting 15, with Danny Geraghty and Enda Varley dropping to the bench. James Horan's decision to bring in Conroy was vindicated by the Davitts man who finished off the afternoon with 2-1 beside his name, thanks to goals in either half. While O'Shea and Barry Moran picked up where they left off in the Connacht final in the middle of the park. Moran started the game in fantastic fashion winning a number of clean catches in the middle and driving forward, with O'Shea winning a lot of breaking ball and holding the line further back.
Mayo couldn't have asked for a better start to the game with Jason Doherty banging in a goal to get the scoring under way after only five minutes. Alan Dillon fed the ball to Andy Moran who in turn played in the Burrishoole man, who shot low under the advancing Brendan McVeigh. Down themselves had a chance to score a three pointer a few minutes earlier with David Clarke forced into pulling off a good save from Conor Laverty.
Mayo went into a 1-2 to 0-1 lead after 12 minutes with Moran and O'Connor adding the points. But the Mourne county men pulled it back level shortly after with Aidan Carr kicking a point before they scored their first goal. Benny Coulter beat Ger Cafferkey to the ball out under the Hogan Stand and broke for goal. He played a one-two with Laverty before finding Kalum King who beat the advancing Clarke with a close range shot. Both teams swapped a couple of points over the next five ten minutes, with Mayo holding a one point lead with 27 minutes gone. Then Conroy struck for his first goal. Kevin McLoughlin won a midfield break and set off at pace towards goal. The Knockmore man's run attracted the attention of the Down defence, leaving Conroy free 25 yards out. McLoughlin picked out the Davitts man who then applied a cool finish to send Mayo into a four point lead. They extended that lead to six before the break with Cillian O'Connor slotting over two frees, last years young footballer of they year finished up with seven points for the day.
The Ballintubber man alongside his club mate Alan Dillon were a constant thorn in the Down defence, Dillon in particular put in a top class shift for the 70 minutes. He ran and ran at Down defenders, kicked four good points from play and showed plenty of leadership on the field.
O'Connor kicked Mayo's first two points of the second half from frees and with 43 minutes gone, Mayo were leading by 2-9 to 1-6, before Conroy bagged his second goal and killed off the game as a contest. Andy Moran was fouled about 30 meters out from goal, he took a quick free playing in O'Connor who flicked the ball across the face of the goal for the unmarked Conroy to palm the ball to the back of the net from close range. That score killed the game as a contest and Mayo eased home rattling off another nine points with Aidan O'Shea, Lee Keegan and sub Enda Varley all getting in on the act. The only downside was the injury to Andy Moran, but Mayo will go into the All Ireland semi-final in a confident mood that they can take on all comers between here and the end of September.
Mayo: M Conroy 2-1, J Doherty 1-0, C O’Connor 0-7 (6f ), A Dillon 0-4, K McLoughlin 0-2, L Keegan, A O’Shea, A Moran, E Varley 0-1 each.
Down: B Coulter 1-1, K King 1-0, A Carr 0-7 (5f ), L Doyle 0-1 (f ).
Mayo: D Clarke, K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins, L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle, B Moran, A O’Shea, K McLoughlin, C O’Connor, A Dillon, M Conroy, A Moran, J Doherty.
Subs: A Freeman for A Moran, R Feeney for Doherty, E Varley for Conroy, J Gibbons for O’Shea, C Barrett for Boyle
Down: B McVeigh, D O’Hagan, D Gordon, C Garvey, N McParland, B McArdle, K McKernan, A Rogers, K King, A Carr, M Poland, C Maginn, E McCartan, C Laverty, B Coulter.
Subs: A Branagan for McParland, D O’Hare for McCartan, L Doyle for Maginn, D Turley for Garvey, D Rooney for McArdle.