So far so good for the new Mayo senior management team of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes as their side picked up their second win of the year with a comprehensive nine point win over the visitors IT Sligo in James Stephens Park, Ballina on Sunday.
The Mayo management made ten changes from the side that started against NUIG the previous week with five players making their inter-county debuts. Into the team came Stephen Duffy (Crossmolina Deel Rovers ), Patrick Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels ), Morgan Lyons (Ballyhaunis ) and Breaffy duo Peter Dravins and Michael Hall. The other changes to the previous weeks team, saw the return of David Clarke in goal with Keith Rodgers, Mikey Sweeney, Barry Moran and Alan Freeman all getting their first starts of the season. The five to retain their starting places were Kevin Keane and Donal Vaughan in defence with Alex Corduff starting in midfield after Gavin Duffy was withdrawn from the team not long before throw-in, while Kevin McLoughlin and Evan Regan retained their places in attack.
Much like last week there won't have been to much learned from this encounter, but it did at least give the Mayo management team a chance to run their eye over another handful of potentials, who want to be involved in the set up in the long term. Afterwards Noel Connelly said about the performance that, “it was better than last week, it was a higher intensity” before going on to say that “I'd be just more happy with the overall performance rather than any individual one, it was more cohesive than it was last weekend.”
Mayo hit the ground running on the scoreboard first, kicking the first three points of the match, but if IT Sligo had brought their shooting boots with them on the short hop from Ballinode to James Stephens Park they would have been in the lead early on, The students kicked nine wides in the first 30 minutes and four of them were inside the opening ten minutes. Alan Freeman opened the scoring two minutes in when he finished off neatly after being set up by Mikey Sweeney. Debutant Morgan Lyons doubled Mayo's advantage five minutes later after he finished off a move involving Kevin McLoughlin and Freeman. A minute later Mayo were three clear thanks to hometown boy Evan Regan who slotted over the first of three points from play he would go on to score over the hour with a crisp left-footed finish after Michael Hall made the hard yards through the middle. The students made their first dent on the scoreboard when Cian Charlton slipped over a close range free after David Clarke was blown up for over carrying coming out of his goal.
Morgan Lyons then had the chance to get his debut off to a dream start when Peter Dravins played him in, but the Ballyhaunis man's goal attempt flashed just wide of the left hand post. Freeman added on his second point shortly after, when he was played in by Mikey Sweeney. Claremorris man Brian Gallagher who was lining out for the students cut the gap back to two points when he drove over a monster of a point, catching the breeze at his back perfectly so it sailed high over David Clarke's head between the posts. Regan stretched Mayo's lead back out to three points when he was on the end of a move started by Barry Moran and involved Lyons before the ball reached him in the full forward line. Kevin McLoughlin kept the Mayo score ticking over with a well struck free into the breeze. The visitors got their third point of the day five minutes before the break thanks to a second Clinton free, but Mayo hit straight back thanks to Freeman's third point. The final score of the opening half came with it's final effort when Clinton slotted over his third pointed free of the game, sending Mayo in leading by 0-7 to 0-4 at the turn around.
Mayo had the advantage of a strong breeze at their back for the second half and they took full advantage of it. Mikey Sweeney opened the scoring four minutes into the half after he was set up by his fellow corner forward Regan. A minute later IT Sligo were given a huge chance to get back into the game when they were awarded a penalty. Ryan McHugh sent Clarke the wrong way from the spot-kick, but he also put the ball the wrong side of the right hand post and the large Mayo crowd in attendance breathed a sigh of relief. That miss was further punished when Mayo worked the ball quickly up-field from the kick-out and Kevin McLoughlin was able to drive through the IT Sligo defence and put the ball over the bar to put Mayo into a five point lead. McHugh cut the gap back to four points with a neat point in the 47th minute, but that was as close as it was going to get for the students as Mayo retook control of the game. Points from Freeman and Peter Dravins, bookend a couple of really good goal chances for Mayo. First Patrick Durcan saw his effort cleared off the line and Lyons saw another goal effort zip just past the post. Regan and McLoughlin added on two more points as the game entered the home stretch. David Clarke did have to pull off one wonderful save from Ciaran Thompson before the end as the game petered out to it's inevitable conclusion. Mark Ronaldson marked his entry to the fray with a point, while Clinton kicked his third free before the final whistle.
All roads lead back to Castlebar next Sunday, where Mayo will entertain Roscommon and get their first taste of real inter-county football, a win or a draw will send them into the final of the competition and ensure that they have an extra competitive game before they start the National Football League the following weekend in Killarney.
Mayo: A Freeman (0-4,3f ), K McLoughlin (0-3 ), K McLoughlin (0-3, 1F ), M Sweeney (0-1 ), P Dravins (0-1 ), A Corduff (0-1 ), M Lyons (0-1 ), M Ronaldson (0-1 )
IT Sligo: C Clinton (0-4, 4f ), R McHugh (0-1 ), B Gallagher (0-1 )
Mayo: D Clarke; K Keane, D Vaughan, S Duffy; M Hall, K Rodgers, P Durcan; A Corduff, B Moran; K McLoughlin, M Lyons, P Dravins; E Regan, A Freeman, M Sweeney. Subs: D McHugh for K Keane, J Doherty for M Hall, J Gibbons for A Corduff, M Ronaldson for M Sweeney
IT Sligo:A McCallig; S Doak, M McWeeney, D McConnon; N Crowe, S McManus, P Varley; S Henery, B Gallagher; R McHugh, E Jordan, C Mulryan; D Quinn, C Thompson, C Clinton. Subs: T Taylor for D Quinn, R Gallagher for D McConnon, M Rock for S McManus (BC ), J Mannion for A McCallig
Ref: Micheal Duffy (Sligo )