Mayo booked their place in the semifinal of the Connacht u21 Football Championship on Wednesday night with an 11 point win over Leitrim in Castlebar.
The Mayo win was secured with a three goal second half blitz that killed off the challenge of the visitors who had put up a stout challenge against Niall Hefferenan’s men in the first half. The game was halted for 15 minutes in the second half when Leitrim defender Gary Butler picked an injury in the process of Mayo scoring their second goal through Diarmuid O’Connor. The Fenagh-St Cailin’s man was on the ground for a quarter of an hour before the ambulance arrived at the ground. Later on Wednesday night the Leitrim GAA Twitter account tweeted that the full back had “thankfully no lasting serious injury”.
The visitors started the game brightest and were 0-4 to 0-2 in front early on with corner forward Conor Gaffney kicking three points. Mayo bagged their first goal 20 minutes in when corner-back Michael Hall broke up field and was picked out by TJ Byrne to crash the ball to the back of the net and put Mayo in front for the first time. Gary Plunkett tied the game up again with a fine score, before Stephen Coen and Darren McHale kicked points for Mayo to send them in leading 1-4 to 0-5 at the break. But it could have been much more, if Mayo had their shooting boots on as they kicked 10 wides in the opening half an hour.
Hall popped up in behind the Leitrim defence again early in the second half to put Mayo three points clear. Leitrim lost midfielder Donal Wynne to a black card six minutes into the half and Mayo took control of the game from then on. Adam Gallagher pointed and Mayo goalkeeper Matthew Flanagan kicked his second 45’ of the evening to extend the home side’s lead.
With a quarter of an hour to go in normal time, O’Connor scored Mayo’s second goal when he pulled on the ball on the deck after it broke to him, after Hall challenged in the air with Brendan Flynn in the Leitrim goal and Butler. The Leitrim defender’s awkward landing saw the game held up while he received treatment.
When the game resumed Mayo sub Matthew Ruane scored a goal within seconds of the restart when he palmed the ball to the net, and Mayo captain Adam Gallagher rounded off the Mayo scoring before the end with his side’s fourth goal. Leitrim did manage to tack on a few consolation points before the end, but the result was never in doubt.
Mayo move on to the semifinal stage of the competition where Alan Flynn’s Galway side wait for them on Saturday, March 21.
Mayo: M Flanagan (0-2, 2’45 ); M Hall (1-1 ), S Coen (0-1 ), D O’Connor (1-0 ), A Gallagher (1-1 ), D McHale (0-1 ), J Durcan (0-1 ), M Ruane (1-0 ), M Plunkett (0-1 ).
Leitrim: C Gaffney (0-5, 4fs ), N Moore (0-1 ), D Wrynn (0-1 ), D McGovern (0-1 ).
Mayo: M Flanagan; M Hall, D Kenny, J Stretton; S Regan, S Coen, P Durcan; D O’Connor, TJ Byrne; V Roughneen, A Gallagher, D McHale; C Burke, B Reape, J Durcan. Subs: M Ruane, C Loftus for Reape; M Plunkett for McHale; K Lynch for P Durcan; M Lyons for O’Connor; S Conroy for J Durcan.
Leitrim: B Flynn; J Mitchell, G Butler, K McHugh; O Madden, N Moore (0-1 ), J De Lacy; D Wynne, F McHugh; J Rooney, M Plunkett, D Farrell; G Plunkett, D McGovern, C Gaffney. Subs: N Brady for Wynne (BC ); K Cox for McGovern; M Clancy for Rooney; K Shanley for Butler.
Ref: P Neilan (Roscommon ).