We’d come close to opening our account in our last two League matches prior to today but came up short on both occasions. Today against Monaghan up in Clones, though, the lads held their nerve admirably down the closing stretch and two marvellous long-range pointed frees by goalkeeper Robbie Hennelly deservedly sealed our first points of this year’s Division One campaign.
I wasn’t at Clones today, the match wasn’t on TV and I was out and about this afternoon so I wasn’t able to follow it properly at all. Aside, that is, from those last, extremely tense five minutes. I had to make do with the Twitter machine for updates from St Tiernach’s Park but even through this medium I could see that what was unfolding was a compelling contest between two determined sides.
It wasn’t the biggest surprise ever to learn that we’d made three changes to our starting team before the action got underway. Michael Hall was named to start instead of Chris Barrett at corner back, Seamus O’Shea was preferred to Jason Gibbons at midfield, while Conor Loftus replaced Jason Doherty at full-forward.
We got the first score of the game, a long distance point from play by Conor O’Shea. Monaghan opened their account soon after with a point, also from play, by Fintan Kelly.
Then, with just six minutes played, came the day’s first major talking point. Aidan O’Shea was black-carded for a foul on Ryan Wylie, Jason Doherty replacing him in the forced substitution. Malachy Clerkin had this to say about Joe McQuillan’s decision to cut short the Breaffy man’s involvement in today’s match:
Very harsh black card on Aidan O’Shea. Brought Ryan Wylie down with arm around neck. Clumsy but hard to see it as a deliberate drag down.
— Malachy Clerkin (@MalachyClerkin) March 6, 2016
A Conor McManus free put Monaghan in front but a placed ball score from Evan Regan squared up the match again. Monaghan were then awarded a penalty (wasn’t there, no idea what it was for) and although Robbie saved McManus’s original effort he couldn’t prevent the Clontibret clubman from hitting the net with the rebound.
We hit back right away, though, with a goal from play by Conor Loftus. Stalemate again.
The home side got the upper hand for the next while, however, when they knocked over three points without reply. Kerr got the first of these from play, McManus the second from a free and Carey the third from play. It looked like we were in a bit of bother at that stage.
We rallied superbly from then till the break, though, and four unanswered points sent our lads in with their noses marginally in front. Diarmuid O’Connor off the outside of his right boot started the fightback, Conor O’Shea added to it with a point from way out on the left and two Evan Regan points, the first a free and the second from play, put us one ahead at the half-way mark.
The half-time scorers listed tweeted by @mayogaa had a nice Young Guns look to it, dominated as it was by Messrs. Loftus, Regan, O’Shea and O’Connor. They’d done really well in that opening half but it was clear we’d need plenty more after the break if we were to do the business.
We started the second half like an express train. A Jason Doherty point from play extended our lead and then Diarmuid O’Connor poked the ball through the legs of Monaghan ‘keeper Beggan to the net to fire us five clear.
The home side were far from finished, though, and two pointed frees by McManus cut our lead back to three. We made our second switch of the day at this point, with Mikey Sweeney coming on for Conor Loftus. Soon after Kevin McLoughlin pointed from play to nudge us back to four ahead.
We were forced into another substitution with twenty minutes to go. Lee Keegan became our second player ordered off on black, with Donal Vaughan pitched in to replace him. I’ve no idea what it was for, hopefully the highlights later on will shed some light on the issue.
Now shorn of our two current All-Stars, it was clear we were in a real battle. Could we hold out better today compared to last Sunday in Ballybofey?
The portents didn’t look good. Although McManus’s free was answered by Kevin McLoughlin’s second from play, they then proceeded to wipe out our four-point lead. Or rather Conor McManus did – four placed balls, one of them a ’45, brought the match all-square with five or so minutes to go. It seemed then that all the momentum was with them.
I was driving through town by now – clearly a hazard to the blissfully unaware populace of the city out for an afternoon’s perambulation – and I gripped the steering wheel like a maniac coming up the quays when I heard McManus had got the leveller.
Stopped at the lights at O’Connell Bridge, I snatched a quick look at the phone (the commentary had now shifted to Tralee) and saw with relief that Robbie had cracked over what @mayogaa said was a “monster” free. Back in front again – could we do it?
Jesus H Christ – four minutes of added time. Hang on, though, another free, Robbie ambling up again. The car was now idling at the lights at the Five Lamps as the commentary on RTÉ told of a glorious long-range effort that had both the distance and the accuracy. It sounded for all the world like a winning score and, as this video clip shows, it kinda looked that way too:
— Emma (@EmmaMc7) March 6, 2016
Blow it up to fuck, ref. Eventually he did, prompting a car horn to sound loudly, for no apparent reason, as it made its way out along the North Strand Road. All trace of tension immediately vanished from the loon behind the wheel.
It feels like this could be an important win for us. It was a match we simply had to win if we wanted to avoid getting sucked into the relegation vortex. While this win won’t in itself save us, it’s an overdue first step and could well prove to be the spark that propels us to Division One safety for another year.
Mayo: Robbie Hennelly (0-2, frees); Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Michael Hall; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Shane Nally; Tom Parsons, Seamus O’Shea; Diarmuid O’Connor (1-1), Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin (0-2); Evan Regan (0-3, two frees), Conor Loftus (1-0), Conor O’Shea (0-2). Subs: Jason Doherty (0-1) for Aidan O’Shea (black card), Mikey Sweeney for Loftus, Donal Vaughan for Keegan (black card), Chris Barrett for Nally, Jason Gibbons for Conor O’Shea, Andy Moran for Regan.
PS: Congrats too to the ladies who had a major fightback of their own today down in Killarney. They won out in their League Division One match against Kerry by 2-8 to 2-6, making it five from five for them in this campaign. And well done as well to the hurlers who made it three wins from three outings when they got the better of Down in the NHL Division 2B fixture.
Vote now for our Man of the Match in today’s game:
Who was our MOTM against Monaghan?
- Diarmuid O'Connor (47%, 245 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (17%, 87 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (11%, 59 Votes)
- Robbie Hennelly (9%, 47 Votes)
- Tom Parsons (3%, 13 Votes)
- Conor O'Shea (2%, 10 Votes)
- Evan Regan (2%, 9 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (2%, 8 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (2%, 8 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (1%, 7 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (1%, 6 Votes)
- Andy Moran (1%, 5 Votes)
- Shane Nally (1%, 3 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (1%, 3 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (0%, 2 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (0%, 1 Votes)
- Michael Hall (0%, 1 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (0%, 1 Votes)
- Mikey Sweeney (0%, 1 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (0%, 1 Votes)
- Jason Gibbons (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 517