Mayo made the long trek to Newry to play the current Christy Ring Cup holders Down more in hope than expectation. Down currently reside on top of Division 2B with large wins over Armagh and Wicklow whereas Mayo’s only victory came against the newly promoted Fingal in round one.
Down were first out of the blocks with a point in the first minute from full forward Michael Turley, Mayo replied through a long distance effort from centre back Padraig O’Flynn but Down pushed on and led by four points to one after 10 minutes with points from forwards Steven Dineen, Conor O’Neill, and Carolan Baille. However in the second quarter Mayo came more into the match with pointed frees from Kenny Feeney and points from play from Brian Higgins and Gary Nolan, to lead six points to five with 26 minutes on the clock. Mayo should have scored more during this period when they were in the ascendancy and were to rue this when Down replied with four unanswered points to lead nine points to six at half-time.
Down also dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half to lead 0-13 points to 0-6 at this stage. However Mayo did not lie down and five points from Kenny Feeney and one each from Ciaran Charlton and substitute Kieran McDermott left them just three points adrift, 0-16 to 0-13, with five minutes remaining. Mayo pushed hard for the goal to level the game and got a penalty on 30 minutes. Goalkeeper Donal O’Brien made the long trek up the field but his shot was well saved on the line by the Down goalkeeper Stephen Keith. However the Down backs failed to clear the ball away and O’Brien was given a second shot on goal when the referee awarded a 20 metre free. However the result was the same this time around with the Down defence saving his well hit shot and clearing the ball away to safety this time.
Down pushed up the field in the last minute and were rewarded with a last minute 65 which was converted by the brilliant Down captain Conor Woods, to leave Down winners on a 0-17 points to 0-13 points score line. Mayo wing back Paddy Barrett was sent off just before the final whistle after getting a second yellow card. Mayo will feel they could have taken victory in this game but did not score enough during the periods where they dominated the play. Best for Mayo were defenders Adrian Brennan, Kieran Kiely and Padraic O’Flynn. Others to shine were midfielder Gary Nolan and forwards Brian Higgins and Kieran McDermott. Best for Down were captain Conor Woods and forwards Conor O’Neill and Paul Sheehan.
Mayo’s next game is at home to Wicklow on Sunday March 16 at 12.45pm. This game will be played in Tooreen and a large local support is expected.
Mayo: D O’Brien, A Brennan, A Connolly, D Kenny, K Kiely, P O’Flynn (0-1 ), P Barrett, G Nolan (0-1 ), C Charlton (0-1 ), B Hunt, S Hoban, F Boland, K Feeney (0-8, 0-7f ), D McDonnell, B Higgins (0-1 ). Subs: K McDermott (0-1 ) for Hoban and S Boland for F Boland, C Scahill for S Boland, R Hehir for McDonnell.
Down: S Keith, M Conlon, P Flynn, M Hughes, B Nicholson, C Woods (0-4, 3f ), P Hughes (0-2 ), F Conway (0-1 ), D Hughes (0-1 ), D Toner (0-1 ), C O’Neill (0-1 ), C Baille (0-2 ), S Dineen (0-1 ), M Turley (0-2 ), P Sheehan (0-2 ). Subs: C O’Prey for Dineen, C Taggart for P Hughes.