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Lee Keegan said that he “absolutely” meant to loop the ball over Paul Durcan’s head and into the top corner of the net three minutes into the second half. As soon as the green flag was raised by the umpires, Mayo were on their way to a fifth All Ireland semi-final in a row. That goal put seven points between the sides and it was a matter of seeing out the game from there on in.
It’s been a long wait and it's nearly over. Since Mayo last tasted competitive action almost every other county has been involved in championship action, with Sligo the only side to have not got their summer underway by the time Mayo throw in against Galway on Sunday. This will be the first proper test of the Holmes and Connelly management ticket in the white heat of championship action and they couldn’t have asked for a more traditional joust than a meeting with Galway in their own back yard.
Live coverage from Celtic Park where Mayo take on Derry in the National Football League
Mayo picked up their second win in this years National Football League on Sunday in Elverys MacHale Park, when they saw off Monaghan in an ill disciplined affair that saw two Monaghan players sent off, along two black cards being issued by referee Rory Hickey in a contest that was punctured by numerous scuffles off the ball. In truth Hickey seemed to lose control of the game early in the second half as fracas broke out all over the field.
It wasn’t as if we weren’t warned. We expected a Tyrone backlash, we didn’t think it would be so convincing. The scrutiny and criticism directed at Mickey Harte’s Tyrone after their capitulation against Monaghan in the first round more than galvanised the red hand for their trip to Castlebar. Sports writers, commentators, analysts, and even Mickey Harte’s most loyal supporters questioned his credentials and his team; they’re as good as dead it was declared.
A thick blanket of fog covered Castlebar right until half-an-hour or so before throw-in on Sunday, but not long after that natural blanket had cleared Elverys MacHale Park, a man made blanket dressed from head-to-toe in white descended on the playing field.
When I woke last Sunday morning at 6.30am to find an inch of frozen snow covering the entire landscape around Charlestown I immediately thought there was no way I could travel to Killarney in these conditions, but I had to as I had the radio equipment in the boot of my car and without it no live broadcast of the much anticipated game could take place.
In what was a battle of black and blue in Killarney, Mayo started their national league campaign by showing their respect for Kerry by forming a guard of honor for the All Ireland champions when they entered the field.
Mayo's interest in the FBD League ended in Elverys MacHale Park on Sunday when an hungry and slicker Roscommon team went home with the points and the provincial bragging rights thanks to a five point win over the Connacht champions.
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.