Niall Heffernan’s Mayo u21 side picked up their third win on the trot, with an industrious if not overly impressive display in James Stephens Park in Ballina on Saturday. Heffernan made five changes from the starting 15 that lined out the previous Saturday against Monaghan in the same venue.
In came Ballinrobe’s Sean Shaughnessy in goal with Mark Forkan coming back into the full-back line, Patrick Durcan into the half-back line. In attack Knockmore’s Darren McHale got the nod in the number 12 shirt, while Ronan Carolan got a run out at corner forward.
The win seals Mayo’s place at the top of group three in the Hastings Cup and sends them into the semi-finals against opposition that has yet to be determined, but the game is expected to take place next weekend.
It was the visitors who started the brightest, despite their early morning departure from the Garden County that saw them leave for Ballina at 7am with Johnny Delahunt getting the first score of the game eight minutes in. Mayo had a lot of the ball in the opening exchanges, but their tendancy to overplay it in attack led to them turning over the ball far to often for the managements liking.
Before Delahunt’s point Mayo did have a goal chance, but Adam Gallahgher’s stabbed effort off the deck lacked the requisite power to beat Alan Murphy in the Wicklow goal. Mayo levelled up the game on eleven minutes with Liam Irwin slicing the ball over the bar from a placed ball out on the sideline on the stand side of the field. The visitors edged their noses back in front for the last time in the game just before the quarter-of-an-hour mark when Mark Lennon was on hand to finish off a neat build up. Mayo captain Adam Gallagher tied the contest up in the 16th minute with a well finished free and six minutes later two points in the space of 60 seconds saw Mayo take the lead for the first time. First up was a point from Darren McHale, with Ronan Carolan also bisecting the posts after Mayo won back the kick-out from McHale’s points. Carolan almost found the back of the net shortly after his point, when he was played in by Adam Gallagher whose deft flick up on the run was one of the few quality pieces of skill shown in the opening 30 minutes. Carolan’s goal bound effort was blocked out by a Wicklow defender.
Gallagher kicked Mayo’s last score of the half from a free three minutes before the end, Wicklow did have the last say on the half with Paddy Phelan kicking the first of his three points for the afternoon right on the stroke of half-time.
Heffernan mixed things up at the break with both James Durcan and Steven Conroy entering the action for the final half-an-hour and Mayo hit the ground running right from the off, with Sean Regan driving over a point after he continued his run up the field from his centre-half-back position. Those who thought that Mayo would hit top gear and blow the opposition away in the next few minutes were sorely mistaken as the Wicklow boys banded together and kicked three points on the bounce to tie the game up at the three-quarters stage. David Boothman from a free, Phelan and Dara Henderson all arrowed the ball over Shaughnessy’s crossbar to leave the game all tied at 0-6 each.
Mayo were looking ropey and needed some leadership and that’s exactly what Adam Gallagher provided. The Mayo Gaels clubman who was captain for the game took it by the scruff of the neck and by full time had left his indelible mark on it . He kicked Mayo back into the lead on 46 minutes and then appeared to be everywhere on the field for the closing 14 minutes, chasing down Wicklow attackers, offering himself as an out ball for his defence and chipping in with two more points in the closing stages. Gallagher’s third point of the day was followed by a Eoghan Lavin point putting Mayo into the lead by 0-8 to 0-6. David Boothman cut the gap back to a single score from a free not long after, but Mayo were in no mood to let the Garden County men back into the game. James Durcan added a point from close range and Gallagher slotted the ball over Alan Murphy’s bar after he was picked out by an exquisite out side of the boot pass from Val Roughneen. Gallagher and sub Barry Finan exchanged points as the game entered the home-stretch. Wicklow were unable to create any real goal chances to endanger Mayo’s lead and although Phelan did kick his third point of the day, Mayo held on to win by two points at the full time whistle.
Mayo: A Gallagher (0-5, 2f ), S Regan (0-1 ), L Irwin (0-1, 1sl ), D McHale (0-1 ), R Carolan (0-1 ), J Durcan (0-1 ), E Lavin (0-1 )
Wicklow: P Phelan (0-3 ), J Delahunt (0-1 ), M Lennon (0-1 ) D Henderson (0-1 ), D Boothman (0-2, 2f ), B Finan (0-1 )
Mayo: S Shaughnessy; M Forkan, D Kenny, J Stretton; C Burke, S Regan, P Durcan; M Ruane, V Roughneen; TJ Byrne, A Gallagher, D McHale; R Carolan, L Irwain, J Quinn. Subs: J Durcan for TJ Byrne, S Conroy for D McHale, A O’Sullivan for J Quinn, E Lavin for R Carolan, M Hall for P Durcan, K Lynch for J Stretton
Wicklow: A Murphy; E Marrah, J Kavanagh, S O’Brien; C Healy, D Lohan, C Hatten; D Boothman, S McGraynor; M Lennon, K Kealy, P Phelan; J O’Callaghan, J Delahunt, D Henderson. Subs: T Donnagh for J Delahunt (BC ), B Finan for C Healy, M Thompson for T Donnagh, P O’Connor for J O’Callaghan, L O’Callaghan for E Marrah, P Ellis for S O’Brien.
Ref: S Gilmartin (Sligo )