The thousand or so souls who turned out in Flanagan Park in Ballinrobe on Wednesday evening will have left the south Mayo venue none the wiser as to what 2013 will hold in store for the Mayo senior footballers.
The paucity of the challenge put up by the students from GMIT made this game a non contest from as early as the midway mark of the first half when Mayo were leading by six points to no score. James Horan started five of the side who started in last year’s All Ireland final against Donegal in Wednesday evening’s game, (David Clarke, Donal Vaughan, Barry Moran, Lee Keegan and Michael Conroy ) with the only real talking point the selection of Lee Keegan in the number 10 shirt on the half forward line. The Westport man has picked up where he left off last year in the opening week of the season, and once again put in a very good showing in a new position for him for Mayo.
Ballintubber’s Cathal Hallinan was given a run out at full back, but because of the lack of attacking threat posed by the students he did not have that much of an opportunity to impress over the 60 minutes. Other new faces to get a run out from the bench included Claremorris’ James Shaughnessy who managed to get a point during his second half cameo and Brendan Harrison from Aghamore. While David Clarke made way late in the second half for his clubmate Mark Duffy to make his Mayo debut between the posts.
One major positive for Mayo is that Alan Freeman looks to have refound his scoring boots, kicking seven points over the evening from the full forward position. He opened the scoring three minutes in with a free from 30 metres and that was followed by the first of Keegan’s points as he finished off a flowing move involving Jason Gibbons, Chris Barrett, and Richie Feeney in the build up. In the eighth minute Mayo missed the first of a host of goal chances that presented themselves over the night, Michael Conroy was picked out with a pin perfect pass to put him clean in on goal. The Davitts man should have scored but the ball came back off the post into the path of Carolan who had an empty net to aim at, but managed to put the ball past the post. Freeman kept his account ticking over with a point from a 45, before Chris Barrett fisted the ball over the bar to put Mayo five points clear before the 15 minute mark. Freeman pointed another free on 16 minutes as the game as a contest started to dry up. The same player added two more points for Mayo, one of which he probably should have converted for a three pointer, before Mayo finally raised the green flag. The goal came from the boot of Richie Feeney who was the last man on the end of a move involving Keegan and Freeman. The final word on the Mayo scoring in the opening half came from the boot of Conor O’Shea who whipped over a point on the turn on 23 minutes. The students did manage to put over two points before the end of the half from the boot of John Ryan, but they still went in trailing by 1-9 to 0-2 at the turn around.
During the interval James Horan introduced Keith Higgins, Brendan Harrison, and James Shaughnessy, and it was more of the same with Mayo scoring another 1-3 inside the opening 10 minutes, with Conor O’Shea palming the ball to an empty net after Keegan was put through on goal and drew the keeper before supplying the killer pass. Mayo did go 11 minutes after that without scoring and missed a couple of goal chances, but the game had become an extended training game at that stage, and many who had paid in made an early break for the exits. The FBD league is used as a testing ground, but there is not too much that Mayo will have learned from probably the easiest examination they will face this year.
Mayo: A Freeman (0-7, 1f, 1 ’45 ); R Feeney (1-1 ); O’Shea (1-1 ); L Keegan (0-3 ); C Barrett (0-1 ); J Shaughnessy (0-1 ).
GMIT: J Ryan (0-3, 1f ), A Walsh (0-1, 1f ), E Monahan (0-1 ), F Durcan (0-1 ).
Mayo: D Clarke; M Walsh, C Hallinan, K Rogers; T Cunniffe, D Vaughan, C Barrett; J Gibbons, B Moran; L Keegan, R Feeney, C Carolan; C O’Shea, A Freeman, M Conroy.
Subs: K Higgins for Cunniffe; B Harrison for Barrett; J Shaughnessy for Conroy; D Coen for Feeney; M Duffy for Clarke.
GMIT: B Walsh; M Kelly, A McCormack, B Sheridan; C Sweeney, J Duane, R Shanahan; S Bohan, A Walsh; E Monahan , J Ryan, B Miskell; C Kelly, D Durcan, O Warde.
Subs: F Durcan for Miskell; S Tighe for Warde; S Boyle for Bohan.
Referee: D Moran (Leitrim ).