Mayo 3-18 Down 2-9: who says we don’t like playing at Croke Park?

Lancashire lacerated, Tipperary trounced, Down demolished. It would truly have been the perfect day if that were all we had to think about. But … and it’s a big but, there’s Andy and how bad that knee injury he suffered in the second half really is. We won’t know the full story for a day or two by all accounts and I guess we have to – as @MayoGAA said that Andy himself has exhorted us to  – stay positive and drink deeply on the significance of today’s enormously satisfying win.

And, boy, was it satisfying. Like many Mayo fans, I was nervous going into this one – thoughts of the 2009 Meath meltdown still in the system – but deep down I felt that if our set-up was as solid as it appears to be then this date would surely have been one that the lads were preparing for ever since the draw for the championship was made towards the end of last year. And if this were the case then we could expect a bit of a performance from the lads. Turns out it was and we did.

The news that the juniors were galloping away to victory over in Didsbury started the afternoon off well and then as The Brother and I took our seats in the Hogan we were happy to see that the minors were giving it socks to Tipperary. This they continued to do, proceeding to dish out a right good thumping to the defending All-Ireland champions and, in the process, give us one excuse to be looking for tickets for the first Sunday in September.

As the minors went off to deserved applause, the Twitter machine confirmed that the juniors had also eased to a comfortable win in their All-Ireland semi-final, which meant that two of the day’s three results were already in the bag. Could the seniors now complete the treble?

The worst kept secret in the county was confirmed when the lads took the field, with Aidan O’Shea and Michael Conroy starting instead of Danny Geraghty and Enda Varley respectively. The jungle drums were also proved correct when Jason Doherty took up station at centre-forward with Cillian moving into the corner. Another important switch saw Lee Keegan move across to centre-back to pick up Down dangerman Mark Poland and the Westport man proceeded to stick to his opponent like glue for the next seventy minutes.

Our strategy of attempting to kill off Sligo in the Connacht final with goals had been much commented on in the run-up to today’s game – and not in very flattering terms either – but it was obvious from the off today that we had the same Plan A. This time, though, it worked a lot better and within five minutes of the throw-in we had the ball in the net for the first time. Michael Conroy, already looking busy and inventive, fed Andy who shook himself free of his marker and laid it on a plate for Jason Doherty to round the keeper and slide it home. Soon after Keith came haring up like an express train from the back to feed Andy for as nice an opening point as you’d want to see.

Barry Moran, for the third match in a row, was showing signs of dominating affairs around the middle with three clean catches early on but some wastlefulness in the forwards meant that we weren’t able to turn this possession into scores. When Kalum King goaled for Down, after Aidan Carr had got two points from play with only a Cillian O’Connor pointed free in reply for us, all that early good work seemed to have gone to naught.

Our response to Down’s goal – which came after a mistake out the field and a succession of passes that should have been cut out – was, in retrospect, fairly telling. Straight down the field we came and Alan Dillon banged over a screamer to put us back in front.

Carr levelled again soon after but we nearly had a second goal when a Cillian rasper came back off the crossbar to Michael Conroy who pointed smartly to put us back in front. A free for them brought them level again but a free for us from Cillian edged us back in front. This time the lead was one we wouldn’t surrender. Clear daylight opened up for us with the next score, our second goal, created superbly by Kevin McLoughlin’s fetch and searing run and finished coolly by Michael Conroy.

David Clarke made a hugely important intervention – his second of the half – just after but increasingly the game was being played in the Down half and two further frees converted by Cillian extended our lead to six before the half-time whistle sounded.

It hadn’t been a perfect first half performance – we definitely should have been further ahead at that stage such was our dominance in all sectors of the field – but already it was difficult to see us losing this one. I can’t think of another instance when I felt as relaxed at half-time in a Mayo match at Croke Park as I was today: it was so clear then that we were the better team and it was also becoming increasingly likely that we were going to demonstrate this in no uncertain terms on the scoreboard in the second half.

And we did, we sure did. To be precise, we ripped them to shreds, piling on another goal and eleven points in an increasingly one-sided second half which Down quite obviously wanted to be over as rapidly as possible as our lads stuck grimly to their task of inflicting as much damage as possible to the Mourne County’s rearguard.

The third goal really put the tin hat on it. Andy took a quick free, releasing Cillian who with equally quick thinking squared the ball across the face of the goal for Michael Conroy to bundle it into the net.

Alan Dillon – named Man of the Match by RTE – smashed home a glorious point soon after but then came Andy’s sickening injury. The buggy heading straight out of the ground to the ambulance was a bad sign and rumours quickly swept the ground that our talismanic captain had been felled by a dreaded cruciate injury. We still don’t know if this is the case – the official line tonight is that Andy suffered a “significant knee injury” – and I guess it’s best to see what the scan reveals before thinking about what the ramifications might be for the semi-final.

Alan Freeman came on for Andy and then Richie Feeney – positively chomping at the bit to enter the fray – replaced the Doc who also took a bit of a knock before going off. The bench-emptying then continued with Enda Varley replacing Michael Conroy – the Davitts man departing to warm applause after a storming performance – and Jason Gibbons coming on for Aidan O’Shea. Chris Barrett also got a late run, coming on in place of Colm Boyle.

As the clock wound down, further points sailed over and the lead stretched to fifteen at one stage. Then Benny Coulter swung his leg at a loose ball and found the net but with time running out it made no difference. We won by twelve in the end but it could easily have been twenty, such was the gulf in class on the day.

I’m not going to say too much more at this point – instead I plan to crack open a beer and watch it all again, savouring each honeyed moment as I do. This wasn’t a faultless performance but it was our best championship outing since last year’s quarter-final defeat of Cork and it serves as a fairly serious declaration of intent as we head into a semi-final meeting with defending champions Dublin. We stayed on at HQ to watch their laboured, unimpressive win over Laois – which is part of the reason I want to end up here now, or else I’ll be up half the night watching the re-run of our match – and we left happy enough that we’ll be more than ready to keep the ball kicked out to the Dubs on 2nd September.

But that’s one for another day. Tonight, it’s more than enough to sign off by congratulating the lads – all three teams, in fact – on today’s achievements and wishing them all the best in the challenges that lie ahead. And get well soon, Andy – as James Horan said after today’s game, you’re the beating heart of this team and it’d be great to have you back to face the Dubs in four weeks time.

Mayo: David Clarke; Kevin Keane, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan (0-1), Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle; Barry Moran, Aidan O’Shea (0-1); Kevin McLoughlin (0-2), Cillian O’Connor (0-7, six frees), Alan Dillon (0-4); Michael Conroy (2-1), Andy Moran (0-1), Jason Doherty (1-0). Subs: Alan Freeman for andy Moran, Richie Feeney for Doherty, Enda Varley (0-1) for Conroy, Jason Gibbons for O’Shea, Chris Barrett for Boyle.

PS: Thanks, once again, to Mayo Mick for his superb photos from Croke Park – all the pictures used in this match report were taken by him.

23 thoughts on “Mayo 3-18 Down 2-9: who says we don’t like playing at Croke Park?

  1. Agree WJ….great wins no doubt, very pleased about that…but Andy’s injury is a downer. Hate to say it, but its looks bad

  2. So many positives.conroy showed bloggers know their football.Andy major worry but
    lets wait til we know.great day in Croker letsbe proud but no trophy won yet.

  3. Great buzz around the Mayo players and supporters. We must keep the faith, stay fit and aim to get more of the 10 wides over the bar if we are to beat Dublin on 2nd September, Maigheo Abhu.

  4. Quality in every position,hunger, teamwork, management and the push for more even at the 75th minute…….maybe Leitrim,Sligo and Down were not so poor , but just sides made look so by a superior opposition………………none of the tv pundits spent a second lauding our Mayo side but instead, as in previous broadcasts spent all spare time criticising our opponents, even to the point where Wally Brolly on live air has us out of the championship already. Sickened to see Andy injured , he is the Director and will be very hard to replace, Dillon superb and what a show by Barry ( noticed the Down boys had to resort to a hand on his shoulders to get any ball, which went unnoticed…as per) …………Great win by all and in style, the handling , catching, ball control and delivery was something else. Watched the Dubs v Laois and I honestly think we have little to worry about………… so long as we play the game we played today, skill, tenacity

  5. Great performance. Proud of the way mayo played today.
    Very sorry for Andy, fingers crossed its not too serious.
    Dubs were very nervous this evening. Have the beating of them if we hold their forwards who are also not performing.

  6. P.S. Ran out of adjectives………….but will say that headquarters holds no fear for us no more, we’ve beaten the beast there now ,so lets beat the rest and with the loss of Andy lets hope that those who love their county more than themselves and who may have the ability, make themselves available for this latest push………..whether they are picked or not to line out with men of the calibre of the Mayo of 2012. The very best to our juniors and minors who succeded aswell today to make it a day to cherish forever……….and who was it who slated and tried to undermine our spirit in the Irish Times this week?????must be some ‘nobody’..hope his grapes taste very sour.

  7. Great performance from everybody involved,and will make the selection for the semi final interesting. it’s hard to single out individuals. Just hope Andy Moran’s injury is not too bad but it does not look good.
    The Dubs will be a different story. They are much more physical and today’s performance will knock any complacency out of them. Alan Brogan’s absence had a big effect on today’s performmance, not least, I believe, on his brother Bernard.
    Having missed the visit to Croker due to illness I have no update on the Minors except that they won – to my surprise as they did not look great in Connacht. That may be due to the fact that many of them would only be getting back into football after their Leaving Cert.
    Congrats also to the Juniors who I understand also won across the pond. Good day for Mayo!

    i

  8. From what I saw of Dublin, they looked a bit leaderless, maybe that was because of Alan Brogan missing, but definitely beatable. They are physical and strong but they are not the finished article at all. What sickens me is the booing and whistling of their “fans” at opposing freetakers, it shows a real lack of class.

    Mayo were very good for their win. I thought when goal no. 3 went in, maybe the foot would come off the gas, but in fairness I thought they kicked on even more. The hunger of half back and half forward lines from then to the end was noticeable. McLoghlin and Dillon were immense, Boyle and Keegan too.

    Keep the feet on the ground for a few weeks, hopefully Andys injury mightn’t be as bad as it seemed, (wishful thinking?) and I think we can have a right crack at the Dubs. They won’t fancy playing us if we can re-produce that form.

  9. P.S. the minors were something else today. Looked like different lads compared to Sligo and Ros matches. They were actually way more than 8 points better than Tipp. Superb display of runners coming on to the ball in the first half when most of the damage was done

  10. A very good performance, and they stayed clinical to the end racking up the points
    Andy’s injury looks a bad one which will have a big impact in the semi as he brings composure as well as running the show in the final third
    Michael Conroy and Cillian O looked full of confidence in the forwards which is good news
    Enda V still looks nervous when he comes on and snatches at his chances, has a habit of dropping them short – may feel he has to score all the time to get a start
    The same goes for Alan Freeman – he has a tendency to dwell on the ball too long and often gets blocked down (twice again today) – he will get less time to shoot from now on against better defenders
    They both need a bit of work on their confidence, but it’s a minor point
    I thought the Dubs were poor today, when they get out-thought they rely on their workrate to get out of it. Their discipline was shaky again.
    Laois could have done more damage if they had anyone to take long range points or were able to kick passes accurately and early instead of the short hand passes.
    Dublin missed Alan Brogan today. Thought the Dubs who booed the Laois frees were a disgrace – its not (this bunch of) players fault but no wonder neutrals like to see them lose
    We have a good chance to make the final, i would call it 50/50 based on the two games today, but i imagine most of the country feel that the Dubs had just a bad day

  11. delighted and proud of our teams today but am devastated for Andy 🙁 … Dubs will be tough but without Andy really don’t think we will pull it off … Just when everything was beginning to click 🙁 …. Thought Kevin Mc Loughlin had another fantastic game today and think he might just be the one that might come close to Andy’s unreal work rate … Very hard boots to fill though … But will enjoy the fact we in a semi tomorrow not in the mood right now 🙁 …

  12. Great win and special praise to an excellent and rejuvinated minors. Seniors simply ate a poor Down team who continued the dismal form of ulster final. Still Mayo had to do the job and boy did they do it.

    Another two goals and maybe five points went a begging. We won’t get credit we will get loads of why the others lost but fuck them all we are back in another semi final. Bantys Meath Monaghan , Bollox’ s Derry isn’t nor O Rourkes Leitrim . We face the next two
    matches under no pressure. Up Mayo

  13. Both minor & seniors done fantastic today, Barry Moran definatly blosming this summer, great to see it, he got alot of bad luck with injuries in the past just when he had played himself into the starting line up down the years. Andy looked in serious discomford as he was leaving the pitch, I hope its not as bad as it looked at the time, he’s an imense player for us. I suppose we will know the story with the injury pretty soon! Big Aiden getting 60-65 mins today will bring him on further has to be welcomed. Jason Doc got the show on the road early on, the omens looked good, Conroy was’nt too long after that, runing on to a superb pass from McLoughlin repeated the feat & the omens looked even better. Taught both Conroy & A Moran were doing fantastic at winning long kicked direct ball, the Down full back line was in serious trouble often having to resort to fouling & Cillian punishing them. It really was over as a competive game when Conroy finished off his brace of goals, The quick quick free to Dillion & he then picked Conroy out with the perfect pass, he could’nt miss! Dillion seems to be getting better a superb game, he was my man of the match, great work rate, great passes & great scores. The minors got us offf to a great start & won the match really in the first 20 mins, running straight though the Tipp defence & picking off great points, Tipp’s goal altough well taken was against the run of play & only glossed over the defiencys of Tipp. I dont know what that says about the teams beaten by them Kerry twice & Cork. I dont know what way the minor championship draw goes, eg if the Rossies progress, can they meet us again at the semi’s? Either way I hope our minors get to play the same day as our seniors in Croker for the semi’s next time out. It was a long day, but well worth the trip. I wrote in an earlier contribution that I taught it would be a battle & that we could out battle Down, I really did’nt fancy our minors too much, having seen them twice in earlier rounds, against Tipp who were so impressive last year. Glad to say I was wrong & Mayo won both so impressivly. We now got virtully a month to get ready for Dublin in the semis, hopefully this may give our captain Andy Moran some chance of recovery. So congrats to all the Mayo teams today juniors that also won today. Well done everybody could not ask for more today, Mayo ABU

  14. Mayo minors will play the winners of the tyrone v meath game as we become the munster champions so to speak

  15. Wonder what the Irish Independent will make of Down’s Croke Park HooDoo!…..

  16. anyone else worried about Donal V? Now I need to watch match again on tv but I really feel he hasn’t been the same since the league final doesn’t seem to have the same presence and work rate as this time last year and through this years league … Has brolly the wally and corks caddigan /oleary affected him? Hope to God I’m wrong

  17. Well done lads a great display, from 1 to 20. I thought the ref had a good game also.

  18. The injury to Andy overshadowed everything, imho the worst player it could happen to. However we have four weeks to adapt. It was great to see us so clinical and driving the stake home into Down.Again we had some bad wides and poor options so there is still plenty to work on.

    We stayed on to watch the Dubs as well (divided loyalties in our house!) and they are nothing special. They have played poorly throughout this year and last night was no different. Wexford could have beaten them earlier and if Laois were more ambitious in attack the result could have been different.

  19. Well done to all involved…but I drove back west last nite with a strange feeling, almost as if we had lost, such was the downer resulting from Morans injury. I found myself praying that scans will show only slight damage and that he might be back for the Dublin game… Cos you can be sure we will need him.

    We are already very light in attacking options. That down defence was as bad as leitrims. Can Horan bring anyone else back in?? Aiden Kilcoyne? Mort must feel the eejit for missing this, his departure is bad for him and us.

    Anyone who thinks the dubs won’t show up in the semi are wrong. They won playing in 3rd gear… Yeah, their form is average but wait til you see them roar in the semi. We need an even better performance than today… We were sloppy during periods today and still need more from doc, freeman, varley when they r on the pitch. Also think o Connor can improve…. I have a feeling that we will need him to have his best day ever in a Mayo senior jersey if we r to get to the final.

  20. I said in a previous psot that I felt there was something big inside this Mayo team bursting to get out. There was and it did! The bar has now been raised cosiderably and expectations are understandably high. And that is as it should be. We can now face the Dubs with a degree of confidence and not be unduly disturbed by any of the other teams either. It is obvious that we have real quality all over the field. Sadly, it looks as if we will be without Andy Moran who for me was ‘man of the match’. He is a player of highest quality and his contribution to the win was huge. The challenge now is to cope with that loss and like all great teams rise above it.

  21. The most complete performance I’ve seen from a Mayo team in Croke Park. Wonderful stuff.
    It’s incredible to think that there would be a downer after that. But when I woke up this morning all I could think about was the injury to Andy Moran. I think we all know the bitter truth here, he’s gone for the year. And he’s the one player you’d hate to be missing. But feck it, let’s crack on and prove just how much of a team effort this all is.
    It’s hard to think of anything but that fantastic performance by the seniors, but well done to the juniors and minors. What a great performance by the minors especially. Incredibly proud this morning.

    Haven’t read any of the papers yet, but I’m guessing they won’t give us too much credit. Down were poor etc etc, just like we get no credit for winning Connacht. But feck them, we all know how low we were 2 years ago after the Sligo/Longford debacle, it’s amazing to think the progress we’ve made since then. 2 Connacht titles and 2 semi final appearances (at the very least) since then, couldn’t have even dreamed of that.

  22. Great result v Down, built on a very solid defensive set up. Lee Keegan set the tone in the first minute. But worried about the form of Donal Vaughan, he is being drawn out of the centre all the time and just does not seem to have the drive that the other five backs have. ON THIS FORM his place must be in doubt for the semi final, especially if Michael darragh Mccauley plays centre forward

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