I only ever get to see FBD matches in the flesh the odd time, saving those 320-mile round-trips for when the league resumes in February. I happened to be back in the county last weekend which enabled me to take in the match in Ballyhaunis but today’s encounter with GMIT at Ballinrobe was never on my radar. What a pity: I suspect that years from now those who were in Flanagan Park today will still be talking wistfully about that day in January when they saw young Danny Kirby from Castlebar rattle the net four times on only his second senior outing with the county.
I may not have been there today but PJ (that’s the brother – not The Brother, he’s a different one – and not the other PJ, the one that’s been so active in the comments section of late) was and so what I have to report here is largely courtesy of what he saw with his own eyes. He also grabbed the above photo of Danny, coming off the pitch after what, by any measure, has to rank as a satisfactory day’s work.
The Castlebar youngster would obviously have been the talk of the town at the break after that four-goal fusillade in the first half but, when you look back at how and when the scores came in that half, the gas thing is that he didn’t get going until the 20th minute, by which time we’d already put six points on the board, with four separate players on the scoresheet by then. Once Danny got going, though, he really got going.
Conor Mortimer (and his socks – I wonder what kind of ones he was wearing today?) grabbed most of the attention last weekend and, restored to the starting fifteen for the first time in over 18 months, he was quick off the mark with the game’s two opening points, the first from a free. He then had a hand in Evan Regan’s debut day point and then added another from a free to send us four clear with only five minutes played. Another senior debutant, Breaffy’s Conor O’Shea, got his name on the board with a point from play soon after and a full ten minutes had passed before GMIT managed to raise their first white flag of the day, by way of a pointed free.
Patrick Sweeney and Johnny Ryan added two more to GMIT’s total before Peadar Gardiner – a man with a real January pep in his step, if last Sunday was anything to go by – nabbed our sixth, his shot going over off the upright.
Then the Kirby show began. His first goal came on twenty minutes, his second a minute later when he was played in – via a quickly-taken free – by Evan Regan and by the time 28 minutes were on the clock, he had gone all Willie McGee on us, averaging a goal every two minutes in that devastating eight-minute spell. Oh I say, as the man from the Beeb used to proclaim.
That was it for the first half – as we took a 4-6 to 0-4 lead into the dressing room with us – and, by the sounds of it, that was pretty much it for the day as well. GMIT actually won the second half – starting it fourteen in arrears and heading home only twelve behind – but a flat second period from our lads was only to be expected after that sackful of goals in the first.
We added five further points in the second half – with Danny Kirby appropriately enough getting the first of them, Darren Coen the second and Conor Mortimer bagging the final three, two of them from frees. The main Mayo man to impress in that second half, though, was Danny Kirby’s Castlebar clubmate Aidan Walsh, with the former county minor star getting on the scoresheet more than once for GMIT.
James Horan also used the second period to give a few more of the lads a run-out. Pat Harte gave way to Jason Gibbons at half-time and Alan Feeney came on for Eoghan Reilly at corner-back early in the second half. Enda Varley (who’d started last week) replaced the unfortunate debutant Evan Regan, who got a nasty mouth injury, which PJ reckoned resulted in his having a front tooth knocked out. Then, in a nice touch, Conor O’Shea gave way to big brother Seamus midway through the second half.
Needless to say, PJ was well impressed with the goal monster today but he also enthused about Darren Coen, who added to his solid debut last weekend with another fine performance this afternoon. He also had good things to say about Eoghan Reilly and Ger Cafferkey at the back, Barry Moran and Pat Harte at midfield, as well as Conor O’Shea and the hardworking Kevin McLoughlin in the forwards. As regards Harte it was, according to PJ, only after the Ballinaman’s departure at half-time that the wind went out of our sails somewhat, though I suspect that the fact that the points were as good as in the bag for us by then may have had something to do with it as well.
Next up for us in the FBD are the Rossies in Ballinlough this coming Sunday and with Des Newton’s lads having lost today to Leitrim, their hopes of making the FBD final have already evaporated. We just need a draw in Ballinlough to make it to our third final on the trot (where, most likely, it’ll be a rematch against last year’s beaten finalists NUIG) but with the momentum we’ve now got from the two wins from two starts, I doubt very much if the lads will be heading across the border on the N60 next Sunday with any plans made to secure a hard-fought stalemate.
MAYO: David Clarke; Eoghan Reilly, Ger Cafferkey, Michael Walsh; Peadar Gardiner (0-1), Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan; Barry Moran, Pat Harte; Conor O’Shea (0-1), Darren Coen (0-1), Kevin McLoughlin; Evan Regan (0-1), Danny Kirby (4-1), Conor Mortimer (0-6, four frees). Subs: Jason Gibbons for Harte, Alan Feeney for Reilly, Enda Varley for Regan, Seamus O’Shea for Conor O’Shea.