We’re in the League final.
For long stretches today it didn’t look like this was going to happen, not because of any real failings on our part but instead due to the fact that Galway appeared to have the beating of Tyrone up in Omagh.
But then the narrative changed in Healy Park, while at the same time we began to lose some of the grip we had in our contest against Monaghan. We had to endure a nervy enough final twenty minutes but did enough to win by three while Tyrone went on to beat Galway, with the combination of these results sending us through to next weekend’s decider, which will be against Kerry.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Going into today’s Round 7 meeting with Monaghan we knew that, first and foremost, what we had to do was mind our own affairs and get the desired result here, hoping that this might then be enough to get us an outing at Croke Park.
Our first half performance was the best we’d played on home soil for ages. An early goal jabbed home by Kevin McLoughlin after clever work by Darren Coen was just the start we needed and undermined Monaghan’s hopes of building up a wind-assisted first half lead. In fact, aside from the opening score, they never led thereafter today, though they had pulled level by the end of that first quarter as we’d failed to add to our tally.
Points from Jason Doherty (a free), Fergal Boland – a glorious outside-of-the-boot effort from the left – and debutant James McCormack put us three clear as we began to settle nicely.
By half-time we were seven to the good, with Kevin McLoughlin having added a second goal shortly before the break. Before then Fergal Boland had added two further points from play and the goal came at the end of a cracking move that saw Aidan O’Shea burst forward, do a quick give-and-go before feeding Kevin who lashed it to the net.
We lost David Clarke soon after the goal. In truth, Monaghan should also have been denied the services of Darren Hughes for the disgraceful man-before-ball challenge on the Ballina man. He was very lucky to pick up just a yellow for a foul that saw the ‘keeper stretchered off, Robbie Hennelly coming off the bench to replace him.
In stoppage time before the short whistle Aidan boomed over a point from distance – only his second score of this League campaign – and then Brian Reape, who wasn’t long on the field having replaced the injured Conor Diskin, claimed a forward mark and slotted it over.
The sense of satisfaction we all had at that point was tempered to some degree by the news from Healy Park. Galway were well ahead and no matter how much we might win by if they did they business there then this would be the day our 2019 League campaign would end.
We still had to finish the job against Monaghan as well. They started brightly after the break, notching three points on the spin after McCarron and Robbie Hennelly, from a great long-range free, had traded points.
Darren Coen settled the nerves of the Mayo supporters – in an enormous crowd of 13,287 – with a peach of a score from out on the right. Then word began to filter through that Tyrone had struck back and were now leading in Healy Park.
Our own contest took a significant turn when Monghan’s Fintan Kelly got a straight red for a stupid hit on Fergal Boland. When Kevin McLoughlin pointed for us soon after it looked like we might cut loose and do some real damage.
A goal for them by Darren Hughes soon disabused us of any such notions but within minutes we had another goal ourselves, this one bundled inadvertently to the net by Monaghan corner-back Ryan Wylie after Darren Coen bore down on goal and Kevin McLoughlin’s initial effort was kept out.
We continued to turn up the heat on them. Brendan Harrison – who had a great battle all day with their dangerman Conor McManus – raided forward and lifted the ball over the bar off the fist. Jason Doherty then swivelled and shot over, following which Aidan offloaded to the rampaging Kevin McLoughlin who smashed it over.
But Monaghan weren’t finished and six points without reply, most of them McManus frees from distance as we opted to foul out round the 50-yard mark, brought them right back into contention as time began to run out.
We eventually ended a long scoreless spell with a point from play by Diarmuid O’Connor and when sub Donal Vaughan banged one over following a great pass by Kevin McLoughlin that gave us the breathing space to see out a slightly nervy but still hugely welcome three-point win.
What was great about today – apart from the fact that it’s another win at MacHale Park, one that sees us make it to the Division One final for the first time since 2012 – was how James placed his trust in a less experienced selection.
Sure, the team was backboned by several long established players but there were plenty of young guns on display and, with the game still very much in the melting pot in the second hand, James threw on a number of players who had seen little or no League action to date. Jason Gibbons, David Drake and James Carr all came on into that high-octane environment.
And so our return of five wins from the seven matches we’ve played in – despite all of the experimentation that has been done – means we’ve now got the significant reward of a League final appearance to look forward to. In it we’ll face Kerry, a team we know plenty about but a side we definitely won’t fear taking on at Croke Park this day week. It’s a final James Horan and his charges will surely be eagerly relishing, as we supporters should be too.
Mayo: David Clarke; Stephen Coen, Brendan Harrison (0-1), Eoin O’Donoghue; Paddy Durcan, Chris Barrett, James McCormack (0-1); Matthew Ruane, Aidan O’Shea (0-1); Fergal Boland (0-3), Jason Doherty (0-2, one free), Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1); Kevin McLoughlin (2-2), Darren Coen (0-1), Conor Diskin. Subs: Brian Reape (0-1) for Diskin (blood), Robbie Hennelly (0-1) for Clarke, Jason Gibbons for Ruane (blood), David Drake for O’Donoghue, James Carr for Darren Coen, Donal Vaughan (0-1) for McCormack, Ciaran Treacy for Boland.
Who was our MOTM against Monaghan? Pick your top three performers
- Kevin McLoughlin (38%, 722 Votes)
- Fergal Boland (24%, 446 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (12%, 229 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (7%, 138 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (3%, 58 Votes)
- David Clarke (2%, 45 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (2%, 37 Votes)
- Darren Coen (2%, 36 Votes)
- James McCormack (2%, 33 Votes)
- Matthew Ruane (2%, 30 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (1%, 20 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (1%, 16 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (1%, 15 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (1%, 10 Votes)
- Conor Diskin (0%, 7 Votes)
- Robbie Hennelly (0%, 7 Votes)
- Ciaran Treacy (0%, 6 Votes)
- Jason Gibbons (0%, 6 Votes)
- Brian Reape (0%, 6 Votes)
- David Drake (0%, 4 Votes)
- James Carr (0%, 4 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (0%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,058
The afternoon wasn’t, sadly, as productive for the ladies team at MacHale Park this afternoon. Well in it at the break, where they trailed Cork by just a single point, they were blown out of the water altogether in the second half. They lost at the finish by 4-14 to 2-5.
We had just arrived into MacHale Park when the first Mayo goal went in shortly before half-time. This came via a rebound after a penalty, the ball stabbed to the net by Emma Needham.
Cork started the second half with two players in the sin bin. Despite this they took control early on after the break, though a cracking goal by Sinead Cafferkey – which would prove to be the team’s only second half score – cut the gap to one.
From then to the finish, though, it was all one-way traffic. Cork piled on point after point and then, for good measure, added in two goals shortly before the end.
This was a comprehensive defeat, one that now ends the county’s interest in this year’s League campaign. Hard luck to them.