Mayo book semi-final spot

GAA: Allianz NFL - Mayo: 2-12 Derry: 1-7

In seven day's time it's sure to be a very different game, with a place in the league final at stake. Derry came to Elverys MacHale Park with their spot in the last four already in the bag and made 14 changes from their game the previous week against Kildare with only Emmet McGuckin holding on to a place in the first 15. James Horan made five changes from the team that faced Dublin with Kevin Keane, Shane McHale, Tom Parsons, Seamus O'Shea and Mikie Sweeney all getting starting spots against the Oak Leaf county.

When the history of this season is written, there's not going to be much thought given to what was a forgettable enough contest in which Mayo were dominant for long periods and survived a second half wobble to hold off their visitors. With the probability being that both sides would meet in the semi-final and their place in those semi-finals all ready assured, Brian McIver's decision to rotate his squad to such an extent was justified and it gave him the opportunity to give game time to those trying to impress the Derry manager.

Mikie Sweeney opened the scoring for Mayo two minutes in when Keith Higgins played a quick free into the Kiltane man who swept the ball over the bar on the turn. From the resulting kick out, Tom Parsons climbed highest to claim the ball. He took off on a run that took him unchallenged through the heart of the Derry defence, but his shot at goal was saved easily by Eoin McNicholl. Three minutes later Andy Moran had a glorious chance for a goal but he scuffed his effort wide off the deck close in. Ten minutes into the contest Cillian O'Connor was forced off the field through injury and was replaced by Darren Coen in the full-forward line and a minute later Alan Freeman kicked Mayo's second point of the afternoon from a free. The Aghamore man was once again in top form and finished the 70 minutes with 2-6 to his name. With 13 minutes on the clock, Darren Coen put Mayo three to the good after being set up by Tom Parsons. Freeman kicked the next two points, extending the lead out to five before the 20 minute mark, his second point of this salvo was a particularly fine score.

Derry finally got in on the scoring act not long after when Aidan McAlynn drove over a fine effort from distance, with the aid of a strong wind at his back. But that was as good as it got for Derry on the scoreboard in the first half. Mayo tagged on three more points before the break with Parsons, another Freeman score and Mikie Sweeney all raising the white flag. Sweeney's point came after both Darren Coen and Alan Freeman had goal chances blocked by the Derry defence.

Mayo went in at the break leading by 0-8 to 0-1 and the result looked like a fait accompli. The presumption was given even more credence four minutes after the restart when Alan Freeman was hauled down inside the penalty area and dusted himself off to drive home the ball from the resulting spot kick. Derry had kicked the first score of the half through McGuckin who had been moved to the full forward spot at the the turn around. Mayo were nine points up and cruising, but they took their foot off the gas and Derry managed to close that gap back to just three points thanks to a burst of 1-3 from the 15th to 19th minute of the second half. Neither side managed to score from after Freeman's penalty until Aaron Kerrigan kicked a point a quarter of an hour into the second half. Emmett Bradley followed up with a point a few seconds later and within a minute the impressive McGuckin rifled the ball to the back of the Mayo net with a powerful effort from the edge of the area. That score was followed by a Charlie Kielt effort and Mayo's lead had been cut to just three points.

The decisive score of the game came 13 minutes from the end when Freeman grabbed his second goal of the day. Barry Moran who wasn't long on drove at the Derry defence, before he set up Andy Moran for a shot at goal. Moran's effort was well blocked by a Derry defender, but the ball came back into the arms of Freeman who made no mistake with the second attempt. That goal sealed the outcome of the contest with Mayo kicking on and adding more scores from Donal Vaughan, Andy Moran and two more Freeman points to seal the win and Mayo's place in next weekend's semi-final, where a very different Derry will no doubt await.

Mayo:R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, K Keane; S McHale, D Vaughan (0-01 ), C Boyle; T Parsons (0-01 ), S O’Shea; K Higgins, A Moran (0-01 ), J Doherty; M Sweeney (0-02 ), A Freeman (2-06, 1-0 pen, 3fs, 145 ), C O’Connor. Subs: D Coen (0-01 ) for O’Connor (10 mins ), R Feeney for Higgins (36 mins ), B Moran for Doherty (47 mins ), M Conroy for Sweeney (47 mins ), D O’Connor for Parsons (62 mins ), L Keegan for Boyle (70 mins ).

Derry:E McNicholl; O Duffy, C McAtamney, K McKaigue; C Kielt (0-01 ), M Craig, A McAlynn (0-02 ); E McGuckin (1-01 ), N Holly; A Devlin, D Heavron, C McWilliams; J Kearney, D Mullan, C McGoldrick. Subs: E Bradley (0-01 ) for McGoldrick (36 mins ), A Kerrigan (0-01, f ) for Mullan (45 mins ), K Conway for Devlin (52 mins ), N McFeely (0-01 ) for Heavron (60 mins ), P Cassidy for Kearney (68 mins ), N McNicholl for McGuckin (69 mins ).

Referee:D Coldrick (Meath )


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