Mayo made hard work of progressing to the last eight of the championship against Westmeath in Croke Park on Saturday afternoon, despite leading by 12 points at one stage early on.
They had to withstand a second half comeback from the midlanders who reeled in Mayo’s lead to just three points going down the home stretch only for a Cillian O’Connor point and an Aidan O’Shea goal late on to put some gloss on what was a puzzling performance from Stephen Rochford’s men in Croke Park.
Mayo dominated the first half for the most part and were leading by 2-10 to 0-4 as the median whistle approached, but their shooting performance in that half still left a lot to be desired as they missed 13 other scoring opportunities dropping seven shots short into the keepers’ hands and putting another six wide of the target.
Jason Doherty who was a late replacement for the injured Diarmuid O’Connor hit Mayo’s first goal after 23 minutes when he finished from close range to put Mayo into a 1-5 to 0-3 lead. John Heslin and Evan Regan traded scores early on, with Heslin putting Westmeath back in front before Andy Moran swept over his first effort of the day to leave it all square once more. Cillian O’Connor edged Mayo in front for the first time with the first of his 1-5 tally for the day after 16 minutes. Regan and O’Connor stretched Mayo’s lead out to three with two neat scores, before Heslin closed the gap back to two once more.
Doherty netted after a fine run from Donal Vaughan found him in space, before flying wing back Paddy Durcan stretched Mayo’s lead out to 1-6 to 0-3. Mayo upped the gears and scores from Regan, O’Connor and Moran had them well out in front before Westmeath managed to register their first score from play. Just on the half hour mark Mayo were awarded a spot kick that took most people by surprise when the Westmeath keeper was blown up for overcarrying inside the small square, Cillian O’Connor disptatched the ball to the net to put Mayo 2-9 to 0-4 and looking to be cruising to victory. McLoughlin tagged on one more and Mayo were 12 to the good, but Westmeath struck back when James Dolan breezed through the Mayo defence and fired low past David Clarke from distance to raise the green flag. John Heslin tagged on another point for his side, when it might have well been a goal after a mix up on a Mayo kick out, at the break Mayo went in leading 2-10 to 1-5.
After the turn around Westmeath hit Mayo for four on the bounce with Dolan, Heslin (2 ) and Boyle all pointing to put just four between the sides. Seven minutes into the half Mayo registerd their first score thanks to a Cillian O’Connor free, which was followed up by a Doherty effort, before Heslin struck once more for the Westmeath men. Keith Higgins stroked one over from out the park, before Westmeath kept up their fine second half showing reeling off four more scores to leave just five between the sides with Kiearan Martin’s point leaving the score of 2-13 to 1-13, Donal Vaughan and John Heslin then exchanged points as Mayo supporters were sitting on the edge of their seats fearing the worst, before and O’Connor free and Aidan O’Shea’s goal sealed the seven point win for Mayo, to book their place in this Saturday’s All Ireland quarter final against Tyrone where a much improved preformace will be needed if Mayo are to progress any further in the competition.
Mayo: C O'Connor 1-5 (1-0 pen, 1f ), J Doherty 1-1, E Regan 0-3 (2fs ), A O'Shea 1-0, A Moran 0-2, P Durcan 0-1, K McLoughlin 0-1, K Higgins 0-1, D Vaughan 0-1.
Westmeath: J Heslin 0-10 (7fs ), J Dolan 1-1, K Martin 0-2, F Boyle 0-1.
Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, K Keane, K McLoughlin; C Boyle, L Keegan, P Durcan; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; K Higgins, A O'Shea, J Doherty; E Regan, A Moran, C O'Connor. Subs: B Moran for Boyle (53 ), A Dillon for Regan (55 ), C O'Shea for Doherty (59 ), A Freeman for A Moran (66 ), C Barrett for Keegan (68 ), T Parsons for S O'Shea (70 ).
Westmeath: D Quinn; A Stone, K Daly, J Gonoud; J Dolan, K Maguire, F Boyle; J Heslin, G Egan; J Egan, P Sharry, D Lynch; C McCormack, K Martin, J Connellan. Subs: D Corroon for Stone (21 ), D Daly for Lynch (32 ), S Gallagher for Quinn (h/t ), S Corcoran for J Egan (45 ), D McNicholas for Connellan (53 ), D Conway for McCormack (66 ).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare ).