Mayo picked up their 44th Connacht title in McHale Park on Sunday, with a 16 point, but bitty win over London in front of 21,274 paying supporters. The novelty of London making it to the Connacht final, got plenty of coverage in the build up, but for the third game in a row Mayo won without being tested and now go into an All Ireland quarter-final, knowing that they'll need to seriously up their performance to make it to a third All Ireland semi-final in a row.
Putting five goals on a side in Connacht final would normally be a sign of big performance by a team, but Mayo turned over the ball countless times, made careless errors and kicked the ball wide 21 times over the seventy minutes, and even put the ball over their own end line in the second half with a lazy backpass to give London a 45.
Mayo went into the lead two minutes in through a Kevin McLoughlin pointed free after Andy Moran was fouled, but by the five minute mark they had already kicked three bad wides, two from the boot of Darren Coen and one from Alan Dillon. Lorcan Mulvey who ended up with seven points to his name, kicked London level from a free six minutes in, but it was the last time the sides were level in the game. Richie Feeney put Mayo in front again on the eight minute mark, when he finally put the ball over the bar after a number of Mayo players failed to take on a shot themselves from good positions.
Mayo hit their first goal, 12 minutes in after Alan Dillon did well to turn over possession and feed Alan Freeman who put the ball low past Declan Taynor in the London goal. The Aghamore man kicked a point a minute later when he was picked out by a pinpoint pass from Kevin McLoughlin and Mayo were in all reality home and hosed at this stage. Lee Keegan got in on the act and kicked his first point 14 minutes in. McLoughlin and Freeman added two more points for Mayo before they bagged their second goal from Darren Coen 22 minutes in. London did chip away at the score board with Mulvey kicking another three frees to to go with one from play from the boot of Damien Dunleavy to leave the half-time score Mayo 2-6 London 0-5.
James Horan introduced Cillian O'Connor at the break and I don't think even he could have foreseen the Ballintubber club man hitting the back of the net three times in the second half in a 17 minutes spell from the 41st to 58th minute. Lee Keegan opened the scoring in the second half with a point after a barreling run, Andy Moran got in on the act a minute later. O'Connor's first goal came after Chris Barrett made a driving run through the middle before he recycled the ball to Aidan O'Shea who then moved it on to O'Connor who finished from close range. O'Connor bisected his first two goals with a pointed free before after Moran was fouled. Mayo's fourth goal was started by Seamus O'Shea, who along with his brother lorded the midfield throughout. O'Shea fed Keegan who moved it on to Dillon, before it worked its way to Andy Moran who spotted O'Connor close in to finish to the back the net to leave the score at that stage, 4-9 to 0-8. Tom Cunniffe of all men was the man who was upended inside the large rectangle to give Mayo a penalty on 57 minutes, and O'Connor made no mistake putting it low to the left hand corner past Traynor's dive. The game was in wind down mode at this stage and James Horan ran the bench, with Donal Vaughan, Michael Conroy and Shane McHale all getting game time. The one worrying outcome from the game is that Mayo had to finish with 14 men after Conroy had to go back off with suspected hamstring injury, not long after making his championship bow for 2013. Mayo added two more points before full time to run out 5-11 to 0-10 winners, but knowing that a lot of work remains to be done before the Bank Holiday weekend in August.
There were some good performance for Mayo throughout the game in patches, with Ger Cafferkey, Tom Cunniffe and Chris Barrett all putting in very solid displays in the full back line. Robbie Hennelly was composed on his return between the posts and his kick-outs were well directed towards his men at all times. Aidan O'Shea for a few periods over the seventy minutes bossed the midfield area and won a shedload of primary ball, but on occasion his shooting and passing let him down and he even put the ball over his own end line with a misplaced pass back to his goalkeeper. Cillian O'Connor's cameo couldn't have really been any better finishing up with 3-3 to his name for 35 minutes work, while Andy Moran and Alan Dillon got some more minutes under their belts as they come back from injury early in the season. James Horan knows he's got a lot of work to do over the next fortnight and the players know it themselves too.
Mayo: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; L Keegan (0-02 ), K Higgins, C Boyle; A O'Shea, S O'Shea; K McLoughlin (0-02, 1f ), A Dillon, R Feeney (0-01 ); A Moran (0-01 ), A Freeman (1-02 ), D Coen (1-00 ). Subs: C O'Connor (3-03, 1-0 pen, 2fs ) for Coen (36 mins ), M Conroy for Freeman (46 mins ), D Vaughan for Feeney (48 mins ), E Varley for Moran (55 mins ), S McHale for Cafferkey (60 mins ).
London: D Traynor; P Butler, S Curran, D McGreevy; S Hannon, S Mulligan, T Gaughan; C Boyle, P Geraghty; G Crowley, D Dunleavy (0-01 ), C McCallion; E O'Neill, L Mulvey (0-07, 6fs ), C Magee. Subs: C Greene for Gaughan (25 mins ), C Daly for Doyle (29 mins ), S Kelly (0-01, f ) for O'Neill (46 mins ), B Mitchell for McCallion (56 mins ), P McGoldrick (0-01 ) for Dunleavy (66 mins ).
Referee: C Lane (Cork ).