Mayo’s hurling League campaign got underway this afternoon when the county took on Derry in an opening round NHL Division 2B clash at a windy MacHale Park.
The blustery wind blowing down the field from the Albany end had a major bearing on proceedings in this afternoon’s contest. The home team were always in charge in the opening half with the strong wind at their backs, leading by five at the break. But a battling Derry side came right back into it in the second half, cutting the deficit back to a single point before Derek Walsh’s team finally emerged the winners by two points, on a scoreline of 0-21 to 1-16.
Opting to play with the wind in the first half, Mayo – with captain Keith Higgins, who lined out at full-forward, literally leading from the front – took a strong grip on proceedings over the course of the opening 35 minutes. Derry did manage to get their noses in front by a point on three minutes but the lead was short-lived and Mayo were in front from then to the finish.
The pick of Mayo’s scores in that opening half came from a spectacular long-range effort by goalkeeper Gerald Kelly, which Colm Gannon of the Mayo Advertiser described in the following way:
A five-point lead was never going to prove decisive in the prevailing conditions and the Ulster side demonstrated the veracity of this observation by cutting the home team’s lead to just two points, with three unanswered scores on the resumption.
Mayo steadied well, however, and they went into the second water break holding a six-point lead. They seemed well set to close out a decisive enough win then and this looked to be on the way when they stretched the lead to seven points soon afterwards.
It was then, though, that Derry broke through for the game’s only goal. A swift downfield move caught the Mayo backline off guard and the ball was bundled to the net.
Sensing now that they might nick it, the Oakleafers poured forward and with the contest about to go into injury time the margin was once again back at the minimum.
A superb strike into the wind by Shane Boland, turning this was and that out on the left wing before firing over off his left, gave the Westerners some vital breathing space in those frantic final moments. Another Derry free once more cut the gap to just one point before a breakaway score at the other end, rammed over by Brian Hunt, restored Mayo’s two-point advantage.
Only a goal would save Derry now and they came looking for one too. A last second free for them, between the 14 and 21 yard lines, gave them a half-chance of a major but this placed-ball effort was blocked and cleared away from the danger area, with the full-time whistle then sounding.
This contest proved to be a tight and tense one but the win will be all the sweeter because of it. Mayo’s hurling season is now off and running, with an away match against Roscommon up next for them this coming Saturday.
Well done, by the way, to Tooreen hurling club who live streamed the second half of the match from MacHale Park today. I was watching the stream on the iPhone, while listening to the radio commentary on MidWest, which was a good thirty seconds ahead of the video. That made for a rather interesting listening/watching experience but never mind, we got the right result at the finish.
Match report on today’s game against Derry from Colm Gannon in the Mayo Advertiser is here.