Mayo see off Sligo by 2-14 to 0-11 at McHale Park

Goals from the O’Connor brothers at the end of each half helped Mayo to negotiate their way past a stubborn Sligo side in Sunday’s Connacht SFC quarter-final in Castlebar, writes Mike Finnerty.

Young Footballer of the Year Diarmuid O’Connor broke through to raise a green flag on 34 minutes while Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor palmed the ball into the empty Sligo net on 70 minutes to close the game out.

However the winners left plenty of room for improvement ahead of next month’s semi-final clash with Galway after producing a lacklustre display for the most part.

Underdogs Sligo set up an effective defensive system that frustrated Mayo’s best efforts to break them down for long spells, and the homeside needed to draw on all their experience to pull away in the closing stages.

Things were certainly too close for comfort for the Mayo fans in the crowd of 14,661 with less than ten minutes to go. By that stage Sligo’s Adrian Marren (free) and sub Niall Murphy had slotted scores to close the gap back to just three points — 1-10 to 0-10.

Stephen Rochford had introduced Aidan O’Shea midway through the half while Stephen Coen, Donie Vaughan, Conor Loftus and Danny Kirby were also sprung from the bench during the last quarter to try and turn the screw.

These changes coincided with a vast improvement in Mayo’s display down the home stretch and they tacked on 1-4 in the final ten minutes to finally open up some daylight.

During this late blitz Cillian O’Connor landed a spectacular point from long-range to draw a rare big cheer from the Mayo faithful while substitutes Danny Kirby and Jason Doherty also nailed points from distance to put a gloss on the final scoreline.

But Mayo’s late purple patch doesn’t distract from the hour-long arm wrestle that had unfolded under grey skies.

Sligo won the toss, elected to play with the aid of the strong wind, and proceeded to give as good as they got for most of the opening period.

The sides were level five times in the first 26 minutes with Stephen Coen and Adrian Marren kicking two points apiece for the Yeats County, and veteran Mark Breheny (free) also on target.

Cillian O’Connor (2 frees), Andy Moran, Kevin McLoughlin and Paddy Durcan accounted for Mayo’s early efforts.

O’Connor then edged Mayo ahead with another free on 31 minutes before the crucial first goal arrived.

It was created by a typical Mayo counter-attacking move with Durcan and Seamus O’Shea combining at speed to release Diarmuid O’Connor in on the Sligo goal.

The Mayo number 11 did well to hold off two defenders before fly-kicking the ball low past Adrian Devaney.

Mayo led at half-time by 1-6 to 0-5 as a result.

The homeside kept Sligo at arm’s length throughout the second quarter without ever threatening to pull away.

Debutant Fergal Boland capped an energetic display with two neat points during the third quarter but some poor finishing from his team-mates undermined some decent approach work.

And it was only in the last ten minutes that Mayo made sure of their ticket to Connacht SFC semi-final against Galway in Salthill on Sunday, June 11.

Mayo

D Clarke; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, P Durcan (0-1); S O’Shea, T Parsons; F Boland (0-2), D O’Connor (1-0), C O’Shea; K McLoughlin (0-1), C O’Connor (1-6, 5fs), A Moran (0-2).

Subs used: J Doherty (0-1) for McLoughlin (26m, inj); A O’Shea for Moran (54m); S Coen for Boyle (57m); D Vaughan for C O’Shea (62m); C Loftus for Boland (66m); D Kirby (0-1) for S O’Shea (68m, inj).

Sligo

A Devaney (0-1, 1f); R Donovan, C Harrison, E McHugh; Keelan Cawley, B Egan, J Kelly; P O’Connor (0-1), A McIntyre; N Ewing, M Breheny (0-2, 2fs), Kyle Cawley; S Coen (0-2), P Hughes, A Marren (0-4, 2fs, ‘45).

Subs used: D Kelly for Kyle Cawley (30m); K McDonnell for Coen (45m); N Murphy (0-1) for Hughes (48m); G O’Kelly-Lynch for McHugh (54m); S Gilmartin for Kelly (59m); N Gaughan for Keelan Cawley.

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone)

KEYWORDS: mayo, sligo

 

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