IT Sligo 1-11
Those who were in Bekan on Sunday, will be wearing it as a badge of honour in years to come if Mayo deliver on their main objective this season. The short notice change of venue from Charlestown to the Connacht GAA Centre of excellence due to a waterlogged pitch didn't put off the large number of diehards who lined the wind swept and rain soaked top field in the provincial complex. What they got for their money was another mixed bag from Mayo, which is to be expected as James Horan gave a number of fringe players and chance to show their worth. With Ballintubber's Brendan Walsh taking over between the posts, Claremorris' Brian Gallagher and Moy Davitts' Sean Kelly getting the start alongside the likes of Keith Rodgers, Brendan Harrison, David Drake and Cathal Freeman in the starting 15.
One Mayo man did come out of Sunday's game with his reputation very much enhanced, but he was in the black and red of IT Sligo. Ballina Stephenites man Evan Regan who had been a part of the Mayo panel for a couple of seasons until the midway point last term, put in a very good performance nailing eight points, six of them from frees in tough conditions. However he could have had a couple of goals to his name if he had taken his chances over the hour also. But if he keeps up the form he displayed on Sunday and preforms well with the Mayo u21 side this spring, he'll surely be an option that will have to be considered as the year goes on.
As for the game itself, the one concern for James Horan will be that Mayo didn't score from Cathal Carolan's point before the 25th minute until Alan Freeman dispatched Mayo's second goal from the penalty spot as the game moved towards injury time in the second period. Mayo's profligacy in front of goal in crunch encounters is a stick that's been used to beat them with over the years, and while a wet and wild Sunday in January with an unfamiliar line-up adds plenty of caveats, it's still something that they will want to address.
Mayo went in at the break leading by 1-8 to 1-4, after they had reeled off an unanswered 1-6 themselves between the second and 24th minute. The midfield pairing of Jason Gibbons and Brian Gallagher who in the first half in particular showed he could have a lot to offer were commanding during this period. While Darren Coen, Andy Moran and Kevin McLoughlin were busy in the attack. Mayo were 0-3 to 0-1 to the good thanks to scores from Coen, Gallagher and McLoughlin seven minutes in and that lead was pushed out to five points when Cathal Carolan's tame enough effort managed to squirm under Alvin McCallig in the IT Sligo goal. McLoughlin shortly after tacked on two more points and Mayo looked to be well in control. Coen and Gallagher added on two more points for Mayo as the game moved toward the 20 minute mark, before Carolan scored Mayo's final point of the contest with more than five minutes left in the half. IT Sligo did get themselves moving before the break, Regan kicked a fine effort to cut the gap a little. Shortly after the Ballina man made a darting break for goal, but he skewed his effort well off target. But his team-mate Niall Walsh was on hand to catch the ball and drive it past Walsh from close range and raise the green flag. Regan added on two more points before the break to send the students in trailing by four at the break and with the wind at their backs in the second half.
The scholars got to work in eating into Mayo's lead right from the off in the second half with Stephen Coen pointing inside the first minute and IT Sligo kept lumping on the pressure kicking seven points on the run before Mayo responded. Regan kept tapping over the frees, while Niall Walsh also got in on the act as they moved themselves into a 1-11 to 1-8 lead with not long left on the clock. Mayo were given the lifeline they needed when Darren Coen was pulled to the ground inside the large rectangle near the death and Freeman held his nerve from the spot.
It was also Mayo's second game with the black card in play, both Kevin McLoughlin and Kevin Keane found themselves sent to the line for picking one up either half. The Mayo machine rolls into Roscommon next Sunday for their final game in the FBD League group stages.
Mayo: C Carolan (1-1 ), A Freeman (1-0 pen ), K McLoughlin (0-3, 2f ), D Coen (0-2,1f ) B Gallagher (0-2 ).
IT Sligo: E Regan (0-8, 6f ), N Walsh (1-1 ), S Coen (0-2 ).
Mayo: B Walsh; K Rodgers, K Keane, G Cafferkey; B Harrison, S McHale, D Drake; J Gibbons, B Gallagher; S Kelly, C Freeman, C Carolan; K McLoughlin, D Coen, A Moran. Subs: J Doherty for K McLoughlin (25 BC ), C Boyle for G Cafferkey (HT ), M Conroy for A Moran (HT ), L Keegan for K Kane (36 BC ), E Varley for M Conroy (40 ), A Freeman for S Kelly (46 )
IT Sligo: A McCallig; R Donovan,IT Sligo: A McCallig; R Donovan, S Fee, E Flanagan; K Cawley, M McWeeney, P Varley; S O'Grady, D Geraghty; M McHugh, R McHugh, C Mulryan; E Regan, N Walsh, S Coen. Subs: B McQuaid for McWeeney (60 ).