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Dublin: 2°C Saturday 26 September 2020
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Welcome to Hyde Park for the Connacht final where Mayo are hoping to become the first team to go back to back in the west since 2003 while Sligo, remarkably for a side with their recent pedigree, are looking to pick up just their fourth ever provincial title and second in five years.

Both teams have very different goals this season although the same goal today. Sligo have come out of nowhere and while Kevin Walsh was known as the resurrection man during his playing days, that tag could apply to his management as his team have risen from the ashes this summer. David Kelly, Adrian Marren and Mayo-native Alan Costello are a dangerous forward triangle. They’ve spoken all year about performance and not results and it’s been the same going into this.

As for Mayo, it’s that difficult second album for James Horan but he had a great league and if his side can bring the intensity of last championship they’ll certainly see themselves as final four calibre. All week the talk has been about Conor Mortimer and we aren’t so sure why. It’s an easy headline, but Mortimer didn’t start the last day, was poor in the league final and has a habit of disappearing in the bigger games. He certainly doesn’t suit this new Mayo era where so much is based on workrate and that’s why the like of Kevin McLoughlin has blossomed beside the proven scoring threats of Alan Dillon and Andy Moran.

So to the teams and here is the Mayo line-up. We will be keeping a close eye on Ger Cafferkey who is threatening to become one of the better full-backs around but will be tested so much by Adrian Marren who is an All Star nominee after a brilliant league. Also, we want to see Lee Keegan who looked so good the last day but this is a much better opposition and see if Keith Higgins can burst forward with David Kelly to worry about. After all, Kelly is the best corner-forward in Connacht.

D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins;  Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; B Moran, D Geraghty; KMcLoughlin, C O’Connor, A Dillon; E Varley, A Moran, J Doherty.

As for Sligo, we know what their forwards can do but can that full-back line hold, can that half-back line help win the battle in midfield and can they get their hands on enough possession in time and space to get the best out of what is likely to be a two-man inside-forward line.

P Greene; N Ewing, J Martyn, R Donovan; C Harrison, M Quinn, P McGovern; S McManus, T Taylor; A Costello, D Maye, B Egan; M Breheny, A Marren, D Kelly.

If we’d to call it, we don’t think Sligo will get enough time and space and the pressure put on them down the field will limit the effect of Kelly, Marren and crucially Costello who will want to pull the strings. We underestimated Sligo the last day but that may have been down to overestimating Galway. Mayo with a handful of point to spare, possibly even four or five, even though there hasn’t been more than two points in a Connacht final since 2004.

We are told there’s somewhere around 25,000 in the stadium here as the national anthem rings out. We are moments away from throw-in.

Game on.

4 minutes, Mayo 0-1 Sligo 0 -0: Gutsy move by James Horan to put the inexperience of Kevin Keane on Adrian Marren while Ger Cafferkey is picking up David Kelly allowing Keith Higgins to get forward. Keane has already won two great balls though while at the other end Danny Geraghty opens the scoring after a nervous start all round.

6 minutes, Mayo 0-1 Sligo 0 -1: Sligo have the breeze but not enough to make Alan Costello slotting over a free from midfield a normal feat. He has a boot to rival Bryan Sheehan and will be one of the key players today. If Kevin Keane has started well, so has the Sligo defence, although it is all very tentative.

12 minutes, Mayo 0-1 Sligo 0 -1: Finally some action as Cillian O’Connor feeds Andy Moran who goals, but that’s ruled out and it is harsh. Referee said throw ball. It wasn’t. Sigh of relief from Sligo but it’s about the only emotion on show thus far. Game yet to come to life, in fact let’s go further, it’s really awful stuff. Worse than awful.

13 minutes, Mayo 0-1 Sligo 0 -1: Cillian O’Connor mishits a free, Alan Costello boots wide, Andy Moran boots wide, Adrian Marren boots wide. You get the drift. On a more positive note, Ross Donovan doing really well at corner-back for Sligo.

15 minutes, Mayo 0-1 Sligo 0 -3: Finally some accuracy and Sligo hit the front through a Mark Breheny free. If he can offer an alternative threat to the Marren-Kelly danger everyone anticipated, Sligo could go close. Especially if their backs keep this up. And there’s Marren to Kelly and that’s a lovely score.

19 minutes, Mayo 0-1 Sligo 0 -3: Jason Doherty the latest man to send a shot wide. We knew it but it took the umpires a while to signal the inevitable. Mayo forwards are under pressure but they lack the composure of the opposition in attack. Now Keith Higgins fists wide from 14 yards out after a great run finally opened up the Sligo half-back and full-back lines.

21 minutes, Mayo 0-1 Sligo 0 -4: That’s lovely from Sligo as David Kelly showed composure, Paul McGovern broke into space and had the sense to feed Adrian Marren. Nice finish. Nice score. Nice start from Sligo. Meanwhile Alan Dillon sends an awful pass over the sideline. Mayo look rattled and seriously off form.

24 minutes, Mayo 0-1 Sligo 0 -4: Sligo just laid down a serious marker. Kevin McLoughlin broke and had numbers and was surely thinking goal. But he was laid out by a perfect shoulder from Ross Donovan. Mayo now haven’t scored for 20 minutes and McLoughlin may not catch his breath for a similar amount of time. Andy Moran with the latest Mayo wide, fisting it the wrong side of the post from 12 yards.

27 minutes, Mayo 0-2 Sligo 0 -4: The drought is over as Enda Varley points a free although his effort from the hands is nowhere near as spectacular as the dive that won him that free. A tangle of legs saw his arms sprawling as we looked around for a sniper. Mayo might have had another but are taking so much out of the ball. They are ponderous and scared  to shoot. Although Sligo’s defence and particularly Donovan have been excellent.

31 minutes, Mayo 0-2 Sligo 0 -5: That sums up Mayo’s first half. Cillian O’Connor misses a free and moments later Donal Vaughan, 21 yards out, looks to handpass and create a goal chance rather than tap over. Arrogant stuff for a side playing so badly. Really bad decision making, meanwhile Sligo come up the field and win a free which Adrian Marren sends it over.

33 minutes, Mayo 0-3 Sligo 0 -5: Much better and what we’d expect from Alan Dillon as he points, moments after Barry Moran went for goal, again when he might have pointed. In fairness, Mayo are dominating possession but need to kick on before looking for goals.

Half-time, Mayo 0-3 Sligo 0 -5: Donal Vaughan’s had a poor first half. In a low scoring game he shoves David Maye in the back but Mark Breheny misses.

Strange first 35, it’s obvious Mayo are the better team and it’s why they are getting into some good positions and dominating possession and territory. But that’s where the compliments stop. Cillian O’Connor’s frees have been poor, Enda Varley has resorted to diving, Alan Dillon’s kick-passing has been poor, Andy Moran’s hands have been poor and the lot of them are ponderous and inaccurate. Yet they are only two points down and while Sligo have done well to get ahead given they’ve been largely on the back foot – a feat that should be credited to the unreal work rate of their backs – it’s hard to see how they’ll hold on. Mayo have the wind from the restart and will surely improve. They can’t play much worse and any small improvement should see them limp on. Is it rustiness? Some of it. But decision making and basic skills can’t be blamed on a lack of competitive games.

35 minutes, Mayo 0-3 Sligo 0 -5: We are underway here in the second half as Cormac Reilly throws the ball in. Attendance is confirmed as 23,257. Not too many not in black will have enjoyed what went before but Mayo now have the breeze.

36 minutes, Mayo 0-3 Sligo 0 -5: That breeze does look to be picking up but it just means Cillian O’Connor’s second wide and Mayo’s eighth goes wide with greater speed there.

38 minutes, Mayo 0-4 Sligo 0 -5: That’s more like it. Good catch by Barry Moran, quick ball in to Andy Moran and it’s straight over. The latter Moran clenches the fist in celebration, obviously releasing some of the frustration from the first half. Blueprint there of how Mayo can win this.

41 minutes, Mayo 0-4 Sligo 0 -6:  Sligo come right back at them as Alan Costello feeds Breheny and that’s a nice finish. Indeed while Adrian Marren has hit four wides, Breheny has pitched in and covered over the hole. But the key is possession as Sligo got their hands on breaking ball in the lead up to that score, something they’ve struggled to do at midfield throughout the game.

43 minutes, Mayo 0-6 Sligo 0 -6: Aidan O’Shea on for Danny Geraghty and he goes straight into midfield. Meanwhile Cillian O’Connor hits a free off the post, Enda Varley gets the rebound and wins a free simply for not releasing. Shocking decision and O’Connor gets this deadball from much closer in. And now Barry Moran has them level. Finally they are finding space and moving the ball quickly and directly.

46 minutes, Mayo 0-6 Sligo 0 -7: Back come Sligo and this is really heavy-going stuff out there. Mayo’s defence now mirroring the Sligo intensity of the first period. But Adrian Marren wins a free, converts it himself and that’s invaluable right now.  And here’s Eamon O’Hara on for Shane McManus. They’ll need his physicality and nous around the middle.

48 minutes, Mayo 0-6 Sligo 0 -7: Michael Conroy replaces Enda Varley but it’s another substitute Eamonn O’Hara who gets straight down to business and is throwing the body into Kevin McLoughlin. It’s ugly but it’s intense.

50 minutes, Mayo 0-7 Sligo 0 -8: With the wind, Mayo need more of that as Alan Dillon is fed by Andy Moran and points from distance. There’s so little room inside the Sligo 45, the way to beat that is to go over the top, even if the accuracy has been way off in their forwards up to now. But right back come Sligo and a 45 from David Maye has them back in front. They are clinging on but refusing to let go of this.

52 minutes, Mayo 0-8 Sligo 0 -8: Those off the ball altercations between Eamonn O’Hara and Barry Moran has seen both of them booked and O’Hara gone off as a blood sub. With that much leakage, his nose may not be at the same angle it was a few minutes ago, before he came on. As he gets cleaned up, Cillian O’Connor sends over a free. Can Sligo keep coming back?

55 minutes, Mayo 0-8 Sligo 0 -9: Yes they can. What a kick by David Maye, a free from outside 45 into the breeze. His boot makes Alan Costello’s look like a pitching wedge. Some score. What courage from Sligo to keep their heads above water. They should have drowned long ago.

58 minutes, Mayo 0-9 Sligo 0 -9: Couple of wides from Michael Conroy. We keep expecting Mayo to get in front and kill this off but they haven’t led since the fifth minute and time is ticking. Closing stages of this war of attrition now. They are back level at least, Aidan O’Shea.

61 minutes, Mayo 0-9 Sligo 0 -9:  Jason Doherty off, Alan Freeman on as Mayo kick another bad wide. Plenty of time left but you feel the next score is crucial in this type of a game.

63 minutes, Mayo 0-9 Sligo 0 -9: Really bad wide for Adrian Marren. He’s had five wides and a really disappointing game. Stephen Coen on for Alan Costello as last dice thrown all over Hyde Park here.

64 minutes, Mayo 0-10 Sligo 0 -9: Colm Boyle has a point and that looked wide. That’s a bad call we think, but a crucial one.

65 minutes, Mayo 0-11 Sligo 0 -9: That could be it as Cillian O’Connor sends a 45 over the black spot. Johnny Davey on for Sligo, Paul McGovern off. You sense it’s a goal or nothing now for the underdogs.

67 minutes, Mayo 0-11 Sligo 0 -10: Or maybe not. Charlie Harrison wins a free. Mark Breheny taps over the free. Possession key, Sligo have struggled to get it but they need it more than ever now.

68 minutes, Mayo 0-12 Sligo 0 -10: They couldn’t get it and Lee Keegan breaks forward for one of the scores of the game (granted, that’s not saying all that much). Now it surely is a goal or nothing for Sligo.

70 minutes, Mayo 0-12 Sligo 0 -10: We are into stoppage time and Sligo still cannot get the ball. We’ll have two minutes of it.

Full-time: Mayo 0-12 Sligo 0 -10: Barry Moran gets a second yellow and is gone. That won’t make any difference to him although that could have been a straight red. But Aidan O’Shea has been really good since he came on and he clears the Mayo lines. There wasn’t even a sight of goal for Sligo towards the end. Mayo retain their Connacht title but if they have bigger goals – which they do – they won’t celebrate that much as it was ugly, cynical towards the end, and mistake riddled. Far from impressive but they do march on.

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