A GAME we should have won but could have lost. So we make do with a draw. 1-11 apiece is how it finished in Fr O’Hara Park in Charlestown as Mayo shared the points with a much improved Sligo IT this afternoon.
Mayo cruised to victory in the corresponding fixture in Ballinode last year but Sligo have clearly got their act together and they go into this year’s Sigerson in altogether better shape than in 2009.
With these improvements in mind – borne out by their victory over the Rossies last week – then today was always going to be a bit of a tester but Mayo still did enough to win but just couldn’t sneak over the line.
A four point lead with six minutes to go should have been enough of a cushion for John O’Mahony’s men going down the home strait but the students struck a goal through Gary Gaughan in the 55th minute and a well converted ’45 by Galway senior ‘keeper Adrian Faherty in injury time levelled the match and if there was going to be a winner, you thought it would be the visitors.
Mayo were down to 14 men at that stage – Tom Parsons sent off for two yellow cards – but Mark Ronaldson did superbly to manufacture a scoring chance before being fouled 40 metres from goal. However his subsequent free dropped short – his only miss all day – and the whistle followed not long after.
There were five changes in personnel for Mayo from last week’s NUIG game. Robert Hennelly started in goal in place of David Clarke, Liam O’Malley and Lee Keegan came into defence for Chris Barrett and Trevor Howley with Barry Kelly and Neil Douglas in ahead of Pat Harte and Mikey Sweeney in attack.
Defensively Mayo were decent but only Keith Higgins can be truly happy with his display. Liam O’Malley and Alan Feeney showed flashes beside him in the full-back line but both were ultimately bettered by their direct opponents – Danny Cummins and Seamus Ryder respectively. Peadar Gardiner put in a good shift on the wing but Lee Keegan didn’t excel at centre-half back, although it should be pointed out he wasn’t helped by an overrun Mayo midfield.
Donal Vaughan moved from the corner to the wing but he struggled with a former Mayo man, Alan Costello who saw a lot of ball.
Worrying from a Mayo point of view though was how Ronan McGarrity and Tom Parsons fared out at midfield. They were well beaten by Cavan duo David Kivney and Eugene Keating and what was telling was that the only marks Mayo made in the game were made by centre-half forward Barry Kelly when he moved to midfield.
While Mayo had the better chances to win this game, this was in spite of the fact that we were losing the midfield battle.
A lot of credit must go to a hard working half-forward line of Andy Moran, Barry Kelly and Trevor Mortimer. Kelly, not a centre-half forward in my opinion, did get on a lot of ball and used it well. He was even more effective at midfield and starting him there ahead of either McGarrity or Parsons next time out might be a suitable wake-up call.
Indeed Ronan McGarrity got a wake-up call when he was subbed after forty minutes after a pretty ineffective shift.
Like last week our tactic was simple – let it in high to Aidan O’Shea. To be fair to the Breaffy man he performed very well as a target man. He struck 1-2 and was involved in another few scores too. But with speed merchants in the corner like Neil Douglas and Mark Ronaldson, Mayo were a bit slow to mix things up and keep Sligo guessing.
Mayo made two changes at the break. Kevin Walsh came on for his clubmate Trevor Mortimer and James Burke was put on in place of Donal Vaughan. Neither really got into the game, but Burke did have his hands full with Alan Costello.
Mikey Sweeney and Ger McDonagh came on later, McDonagh was on too late to make any impression but Sweeney did look lively when introduced and is not the type of player a corner back wants to see coming his way if he is tiring.
The quick summary of the scoring. Mayo led 0-6 to 0-4 at the break. O’Shea scored two (both fisted scores) and was fouled for a Ronaldson converted free after an unbelievable fetch – lets hope Ricky Nixon didn’t have anyone watching this game! Douglas and Gardiner both kicked two fine scores from play and Ronaldson added another free.
At the other end Danny Cummins clipped over two points, Eugene Keating kicked a wonderful point from the right wing while Sligo IT’s first point appeared to be an ‘own point’ off Alan Feeney.
Sligo led shortly after half-time with three quick points in a row – Alan Costello kicking the pick of them. But Mayo then upped it. Andy Moran pointed and then Aidan O’Shea palmed home from close range (still legal we think!) after a squared ball from Peadar Gardiner.
A Ronaldson free left Mayo four in front, a situation that would remain after Douglas and Ronaldson cancelled a brace from Stephen Coen.
Robert Hennelly made a fine save from David Givney to keep Sligo at bay but, shortly after, Gary Gaughan found the net and the game was back on. Adrian Faherty equalised in injury time and while Ronaldson had a chance in injury time, it fell short.
We won’t read too much into this game. Truth is we can’t. But I would like to see a few things tried out. I’m sure John O’Mahony wants to have his strongest team ready for the Galway league game but the team that started against Meath is not going to progress us this year so risks need to be taken and youth should be given its head. We’re a bit to conservative in my opinion. Time will tell.
Mayo: R Hennelly; L O’Malley, A Feeney, K Higgins; P Gardiner (0-1), L Keegan, D Vaughan; R McGarrity, T Parsons; A Moran (0-1), B Kelly, T Mortimer; M Ronaldson (0-5, 5 frees), A O’Shea (1-2), N Douglas (0-2). Subs: K Walsh for Mortimer (half time), J Burke for Vaughan (half time), M Sweeney for McGarrity, G McDonagh for Moran.