Escape from Cloone

Connacht Under 21 Championship Preliminary Round 

Mayo           0-13 

Leitrim        0-09 

Cloone 

Maybe there was an arrogance about Mayo, maybe Leitrim were genuinely a very talented team or maybe Mayo have been talked up too highly but this game was a lot closer than many people expected it to be and much closer than the final four point margin might suggest. 

Mayo, make no mistake, were extremely lucky to escape from the village of Cloone deep in County Leitrim with their place in the semi-final secured as Leitrim managers Mickey Moran and John Morrison nearly had the last laugh on their old friends in Mayo. 

Two injury time points made the game safe for Mayo but it was Leitrim who were doing all the pressing in the second half and had they a bit more composure in front of goal, we could have witnessed an absolutely huge shock. 

Mayo went into this game with a much vaunted reputation but Leitrim showed no respect for paper verdicts and tore into Mayo from the off. 

They kicked the first two points and had in players like roaming full-forward Wayne McKeon, corner-forward Adrian Croal, centre-half forward Eoin Ward and midfielder Tomas Beirne players who were asking questions. 

CRUCIAL: Alan Freeman's four points in Cloone proved all too vital.

Mayo started out with Aidan O’Shea at top of the right and Neil Douglas on the edge of the square but none of the Mayo forwards found much in the way of space against a sticky Leitrim defence and Mayo kicked eight first half wides, following the example of the seniors from Sunday. Douglas did get Mayo off the mark and well taken long range scores from midfielder Shane Nally and O’Shea had the sides level at 0-3 each. 

But it was clear that Mayo were getting nothing easy and it was worrying how quiet a lot of key Mayo players were. 

Still an improved second quarter, helped hugely by Alan Freeman roaring into the game after a very ineffective first quarter, put Mayo in some control. The Aghamore man put the frustrations of last Sunday behind and after the lively Nally pointed, Freeman superbly fielded a Robert Hennelly kick-out to set a move in train which ended with a Neil Douglas pointed free. 

Moments later Freeman scored himself, fielding a long-ball into the full-forward line and blasting over although goal was on his mind. 

O’Shea – a rare effort off his right – and Eoin Ward traded points and Mayo led by 0-7 t 0-5 at the break. 

Two quick points after the resumtion from Freeman (a free – Neil Douglas had been off target a few times in the first half, an interesting reverse from last Sunday) and Douglas from play had Mayo four points clear and we waited for Mayo to kick on. 

It never came and Mayo seemed to go into themselves and sit on their lead. Centre-half back Conor McCawley pointed for Leitrim after shipping a monster shoulder from Lee Keegan (Mayo’s best defender) and it was very much game on when substitute Shane Flanagan pointed to leave the gap at two. 

The momentum was certainly with Leitrim with the excellent Wayne McKeon pulling the strings and Mayo hearts were in mouths when Kevin Conlon pulled on a loose ball in the square. Thankfully Robert Hennelly emerged from the scrum with the ball and Mayo were still in front. Hennelly, in fact, was exemplary in all he did on the night. 

Freeman put Mayo three in front but Conlon cut the gap to two and Mayo just couldn’t get on the ball around midfield, despite having Aidan O’Shea out around midfield by this stage. Mayo had been on top in midfield in the first half but started to tire in the second period and became very ragged, a real worry for management.

Ray Geraghty – only seconds on the field after replacing another sub’ Niall Prenty – pointed with his first touch but Adrian Croal cancelled that out. 

Croal then had a wonderful chance to set up a grandstand finish with a straightforward 25 metre free but he was off target and Mayo could breathe a massive sigh of relief. 

Neil Douglas and Man of the Match Alan Freeman, who had both toiled ceaselessly in the inside line, finally made it count late on with a point apiece and Mayo were clear from danger. Just about. 

An improvement will be needed against the Rossies on Paddy’s Day. More of the same and we’ll be out and manager Ray Dempsey will be keenly aware of that. 

Mayo: Robert Hennelly (Breaffy); Pat Mulchrone (Burrishoole), Shane McHale (Knockmore), Michael Gallagher (Achill); Lee Keegan (Westport), Eoghan O’Reilly (Castlebar), Sean Prendergast (Claremorris); Ger McDonagh (Castlebar), Shane Nally (0-2, Garrymore); Cathal Carolan (Crossmolina), Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore), Jason Doherty (Burrishoole); Aidan O’Shea (0-2, Breaffy), Neil Douglas (0-3, 1f), Alan Freeman (0-4, 1f). Subs: Niall Prenty (Ballyhaunis) for Carolan; Ray Geraghty (0-1, Ballintubber) for Prenty. 

Leitrim: P Farrelly; P Maguire,C Egan, J O’Brien; J Beirne, C McCawley (0-1), D Tiernan; K Moran, T Beirne; A Hickey (0-1), E Ward (0-2), M Beirne; K Conlon (0-1), W McKeon (0-1f), A Croal (0-2, 2fs). Subs: N O’Connor for J Beirne (inj); S McWeeney for O’Connor (inj.); S Flanagan (0-1) for Hickey; E Mahon for Conlon; M Quinn for M Beirne. 

Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).

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5 Responses to “Escape from Cloone”


  1. 1 ontheroad March 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Leitrim are no push over. Was up there for an U21 match in 2002 or ’03. Powerful Mayo side on paper. Scraped a narrow one point win and should have lost.

  2. 2 thereisalightthatnevergoesout March 12, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    I hear you OTR. But this is the best Mayo U-21 team I’ve seen put together in many’s the year in paper terms. Mayo were arrogant, got drawn into a battle and didn’t know what to do. Leitrim just didn’t have enough ability to make it count.

  3. 3 diehard March 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Has the lght gone out?

  4. 4 ontheroad March 29, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Hi, its time to come back. I was right about the U21s.Luck plays a good part. I was in Kiltoom in 2006. Roscommon had them rattled in the first half. Keith and Howley were opened time and time again. Then Cathal Gregg got injured, Ros lost shape. From such unlikely prospects we drove on and won thay years All-Ireland U21 final. The margins are tight but we have given Ros a lifeline that may yet haunt us in a few years. Now Sir, back to the printing press once more. Willie Joe is doing all the fielding on his own, he needs a bit of help around the middle from yourself and Nooneshoutedstop.


  1. 1 Green and Red » Match reports from Cloone Trackback on March 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

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