Colm Gannon reports from Elverys MacHale Park
FOR LONG PERIODS of this game, the home crowd were eagerly watching the scores coming in from Hyde Park, but when the full time whistle was blown Mayo had retained their Division 1 status on their own terms with a two point win over Donegal.
The introduction of Aidan O’Shea ten minutes into the second half, proved to be a decisive moment as the big Breaffy man threw himself into everything from the get go.
At that stage Mayo were looking for favours from their neighbours as they trailed by 0-13 to 1-6 with Donegal’s Cian Mulligan kicking two early points in the second half, after Lee Keegan had to be satisfied with a point when his goal bound effort was tipped over the bar by Mark Anthony McGinley.
The closing 25 minutes of this contest was played at championship pace, with ferocious hits and a lot on the line for both sides. Donegal were reduced to 14 men on 56 minutes when Eamon Doherty was sent to the line, as tempers flared to boiling point.
Just before that red card, Aidan O’Shea, Michael Murphy, Jason McGee and Ciaran Thompson were all shown yellow cards following a scuffle in front of the stand, that looked like it could get out of control.
By that stage Keith Higgins had cut the gap back to three points with a well taken effort, in between a run of three frees that Cillian O’Connor pulled wide of the target.
But he found his range again on 55 minutes and kicked three more from close in down the home stretch as Mayo pulled themselves in front when it mattered – Lee Keegan also kicked a point in that run to put Mayo two clear as the managed to hold Donegal scoreless for the final 31 minutes plus injury time of this game.
This game burst into life right from the throw in, with Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Cian Mulligan kicking points for Donegal into a two point lead inside the opening 120 seconds.
Cormac Reilly who was referring his first Mayo game since their 2014 All Ireland semi-final replay against Kerry, curried favour with the home faithful when he awarded a penalty to Mayo with just three minutes on the clock.
Cillian O’Connor chased in after a long ball and came together with Mark Anthony McGinley, Reilly wasted no time in spreading his arms and awarding the spot kick which was dispatched to the net by the Mayo captain.
Andy Moran won the ball close in two minutes later and slung over his sides first point of the day, Cillian O’Connor lashed over one from beyond the 45 and then Danny Kirby hit a beauty with the outside of his right boot from close to the right touchline to put Mayo into a 1-3 to 0-2 lead after seven minutes.
But Donegal weren’t going to let Mayo take control of this game that easy, Michael Murphy tapped over a close range free, which was followed by an excellent Ciaran Thompson score. Shane Nally responded for Mayo to keep his side in front by three, however Donegal were about to really impose themselves on this game, reeling off six points on the bounce.
Murphy kicked two frees and a 45, with Thompson, Jamie Brennan and Martin O’Reilly all adding on excellent scores to leave Donegal leading 0-10 to 1-4 after 30 minutes. The Donegal defence clamped down on the Mayo attack and broke with pace and purpose in an impressive 15 minute spell in the teeth of a strong breeze.
Mayo finally got going on the scoreboard again 21 minutes after their last score when Colm Boyle hit one from out on the right, but by that stage his side had kicked six wides already. However it was Donegal who would have the last say on the scoreboard before the median whistle, with Frank McGlynn who had an excellent half kicking a fine score to send his side in leading 0-11 to 1-5.
Scorers for Mayo: Cillian O’Connor (1-4, 1-0 pen 3f, 1 45’), Lee Keegan (0-2), Colm Boyle, Shane Nally, Andy Moran, Keith Higgins, Danny Kirby (0-1, each)
Scorers for Donegal: Michael Murphy (0-4, 3f 1 45), Cian Mulligan (0-3), Ciaran Thompson (0-2) Frank McGlynn, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Jamie Brennan, Martin O’Reilly (0-1, each)
1. David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites)
2. Brendan Harrision (Aghamore)
3. Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis)
4. Chris Barrett (Belmullet)
5. Colm Boyle (Davitts)
6. Lee Keegan (Westport)
7. Patrick Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels)
8. Tom Parsons (Charlestown)
9. Danny Kirby (Castlebar Mitchels)
10. Shane Nally (Garrymore)
11. Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber)
12. Fergal Boland (Aghamore)
13. Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore)
14. Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen)
26. David Drake (Ballaghderreen)
Subs: 19. Stephen Coen (Hollymount-Carramore) for Boyle, 15. Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber) for Boland, 25. Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy) for Kirby, 22. Jason Doherty (Burrishoole) for Moran, 20. Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe) for Drake, 24.Conor O’Shea (Breaffy) for Nally.
Mark Anthony McGinley ( St Michaels)
2. Paddy McGrath (Ardara)
3. Neil McGee (Gaoth Dobhair)
4. Eammon Doherty (St Eunans)
5. Eoghan Ban Gallagher (Na Cella Beaga)
18. Karl Lacy (Four Masters)
7. Michael Carroll (Gaoth Dobhair)
8. Jason McGee (Cloich Cheann Fhaola)
9. Ciaran Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
17. Frank McGlynn (Gleann Fhinne)
11. Martin O’Reilly (Sean MacCumhaills)
12. Cian Mulligan (Gaoth Dobhair)
13. Jamie Brennan (Realt na Mara Bun Dobhrain)
14. Michael Murphy (Glenswilly)
15. Hugh McFadden (Na Cealla Beaga)
Subs: 10. Eoin McHugh (Kilcar) for McFadden, 22. Patrick McBrearty (Cill Chartha) for Lacey, 21. Mark McHugh (Kilcar) for McGlynn, 19. Martin McElhinney (Naomh Micheal) for McGrath, 24. Michael Langan (Naomh Micheal) for McGee
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)