Mayo picked up their second win in the 2015 Hastings Cup in a windswept Ballina on Saturday afternoon. Niall Heffernan made six changes to the side that started against Westmeath the previous week in Tubberclair, with Kevin Lynch, Stephen Coen, Matthew Ruane, Adam Gallagher, James Quinn and Aidan O'Sullivan all given their chance to impress. Both Coen and Gallagher came back into the u21 side after lining out for the Mayo senior team last weekend against NUIG.
Mayo had the advantage of a gale force wind blowing towards the town end of the ground and they made it count in the middle stage of the opening half, when they hit the Ulster side for two quick goals. The traveling side looked to be a decent unit up to this stage of the game, but the double hammer blow knocked the stuffing out of their challenge and Mayo were never in any danger of losing the game from that point on.
Breaffy's Matthew Ruane came into the side to partner Balla's Val Roughneen in the engine house of the team and both players will be pleased with their performances, Roughneen in particular was quietly effective all game and put in a excellent sixty minutes. The return of Coen to centre-half back and Gallagher to the marquee number 11 position was also a welcome addition for Heffernan and his management team as they try to have a look at as many players as possible before the start of the championship in mid March
Kiltimagh's TJ Byrne who was one of the stand out performers in their round one win over Westmeath got the scoreboard ticking four minutes in with a fine score from out on the right hand side. That point was quickly followed by a free from Castlebar Mitchels marksman James Durcan. The men from the Farney county got their first score seven minutes in from a Ferghal McMahon free into the teeth of the gale, but that was as good as it was to get for the Ulster side on the scoreboard in the opening half. They did have two good goal chances late on in the opening period but both Shane Conlon and Donal Meegan pulled their efforts wide of Marc Mulligan's goal.
Mayo's third point came just before the ten minute mark, when Sean Regan made a run up from the back. He failed to control a pass into his chest, but he had the wherewithal to play the ball on the deck and drove it over the bar from close range.
Eight minutes later Mayo got their first goal of the contest. Adam Gallagher found himself in behind the Monaghan cover, but his goal bound effort was saved at the near post by James Morrow and went out for a 45. Liam Irwin took the resulting placed ball and his effort dropped short, but TJ Byrne rose high to flick the ball to the back of the net unmarked from close in. From the resulting kick-out, Mayo won possession and the ball passed through he hands of Ruane, Regan, Byrne and Gallagher before he floated it across the face of goal where Irwin was on hand to palm the ball home. James Durcan tagged on a free nine minutes before the break, with Stephen Coen taking advantage of the wind at his back to drive the ball over the bar from well out the park to put Mayo 2-5 to 0-1 into the lead with five minutes left in the half.
The final two Mayo scores of the opening period were real individual efforts, with Durcan getting his third point after a mazy run through the Monaghan defence, before he clipped it over the bar from inside the penalty area. If Durcan had opted to hold on to the ball rather than shoot, there would have been a good chance he would have been awarded a penalty. Val Roughneen had the last say on the game when he left fly from out the park to send Mayo in leading by 12 points at the turn around.
The second half was a more bitty affair, with Mayo struggling at times to clear their defence in the face of the wind, but Monaghan's wayward shooting always kept them at more than arms length from Heffernan's men. Mayo introduced six subs in the second half and they rounded off their scoring with Irwin kicking two fine points from frees off the deck into the gale and Gallagher chipping in with two points of his own from play. Monaghan did managed to tack on five points of their own with McMahon adding two more from placed balls, Donal Meegan chipping in with three and sub Michael Vernon adding the other.
Mayo will move on and look to wrap up their place in the knock-out stages of the competition with a 100 per cent record, when they face Wicklow next weekend in the final round of group games. With the u21 championship starting in mid-March, Heffernan will be looking for his side to get as many competitive games under their belts as possible.
Mayo: L Irwin (1-2, 2f ), TJ Byrne (1-1 ), J Durcan (0-3, 2f ), A Gallagher (0-2 ), V Roughneen (0-1 ), S Coen (0-1 ), S Regan (0-1 )
Monaghan: F McMahon (0-3, 3f ), D Meegan (0-3 ),M Vernon (0-1 )
Mayo: M Mulligan; K Lynch, D Kenny, J Stretton; C Burke, S Coen, S Regan; M Ruane, V Roughneen; TJ Byrne, A Gallagher, J Durcan; J Quinn, L Irwin, A O'Sullivan. Subs: D McHale for J Durcan, R Carolan for J Quinn, M Forkan for S Regan, R Finn for J Stretton, B Reape for A Gallagher, C Finnerty for L Irwin.
Monaghan: J Morrow; A Kieran, K Loughran, F Malone; P Keenan, S Conlon, C Rice; M Magee, D Dolan; R McAnespie, F McMahon, S Buckley; D Freeman, E Doherty, D Meegan. Subs: D McElroy for R McAnespie, S Kerr for D Freeman, C Meegan for D Dolan, D McMahon for S Buckley (BC )
Ref: S Heir (Galway )