Today’s win over Cork deserves a longer report than the one I’ve got here but time is against me at the minute I’m afraid so you’ll have to do with this meagre offering and whatever take you have yourself on what was at times quite a scintillating performance from the lads today. But it’s worth saying at the outset that it was our best performance of the year so far and one that should keep the doomsayers quiet for a while about the direction this team is headed in.
It’s best, I think, to focus on the goals as these – four of them in all – were ultimately what made today’s win such a comfortable one. That said, it was that great run of points – six without reply in the second quarter of the game – that hauled us back into the contest after Cork had scored the first five points of the day.
But it was the day’s first goal, expertly put away by Jason Doherty (who finished the day with an impressive 1-3 haul to his credit), that saw us seize control of this contest seconds before the break. Jason had scored the previous two points we’d got, both from play, and he made no mistake when the goal chance presented itself. That opportunity at goal was our fifth of the half but was the first we’d managed to convert and the Burrishoole man’s confident finish sent us in six to the good at the break.
The next two goals were both out of the top drawer and put us out of sight of the visitors in the second half. Alan Freeman smashed home the first, having won his own ball twenty or so yards out, turned and shrugged off the cover before planting the ball firmly into the top left-hand corner of the net. Jason Gibbons, charging through the middle like an express train, fairly lashed the ball home, low and hard, for our third goal.
We went to sleep after that but this was hardly a surprise, given that James Horan had figured (correctly as it turned out) that the points were in the bag by then and that it was time to run the bench. Losing Aidan O’Shea from the middle, though, meant that we lost the complete dominance we had there and this allowed Cork to put some respectability back on the scoreline.
Our fourth goal was, as a result, a score that came against the run of play. It was a clever goal, though, with Mikie Sweeney feeding Kevin McLoughlin who set up Cillian O’Connor for the goal that put the result completely beyond doubt.
We had plenty of strong performers today and so I don’t think that picking our Man of the Match from this one will be all that easy, given the spread of fine displays throughout the team. For my money, this shortlist would include Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey (who was truly immense today), Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Aidan O’Shea, Jason Gibbons, Kevin McLoughlin (whose return to top form continues apace), Jason Doherty, Keith Higgins and Alan Freeman.
So now it’s on to Croke Park in a fortnight’s time and a rematch with our nemesis from last September. After two rounds of this League campaign, the notion that we’d be heading into this clash with the Dubs ahead of them in the table would have been considered fanciful in the extreme but that’s the way it’s panned out. Not for the first time, the way the League is playing out is anything but predictable and after the way we’ve recovered so well from the uncertain start we had this year we can now look ahead to our return to Croke Park with a fair degree of confidence. And, lest we forget, we owe the Dubs one that this stage too.
Mayo: Robbie Hennelly; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Shane McHale; Lee Keegan (0-1), Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle; Aidan O’Shea (0-1), Jason Gibbons (1-1); Kevin McLoughlin (0-4, one free), Jason Doherty (1-3), Keith Higgins; Mikie Sweeney, Alan Freeman (1-0), Cillian O’Connor (1-2, two frees). Subs: Seamus O’Shea for Aidan O’Shea, Brian Gallagher for Higgins, David Drake for McHale, Darren Coen for Freeman, Tom Parsons for Gibbons, Enda Varley for Sweeney.