A freezing cold night in January: what’s a man to do but toss a few more logs on the fire, flop down on the couch and follow the action on Twitter? U8 club commitments up here early tomorrow morning kept me away from this one but as is now the norm with Mayo GAA matches, the constant stream of tweets meant that it was very easy to keep up with the action at McHale Park this evening. To make things even better, PJ lobbed a few photos in my direction too, including this one of Alan Dillon hoisting aloft our first silverware of 2012.
Tonight’s ten-point victory over NUIG can safely be filed away as a facile one because it sounded like it was a match we were in control of pretty much from the throw-in. Once we got our noses in front after ten minutes or so we quickly took control and we were well on our way to victory by half-time. In our previous two FBD matches this year, we’d taken the foot off the gas in the second half but this didn’t happen tonight as we pushed on to claim our third FBD title in a row by a comfortable double-digit margin.
Shane Moran opened the scoring for NUIG with a fisted point but two frees from Alan Freeman edged us in front. @ColmGannon and @Jonathan_OBoyle were both in agreement that we were denied a clearcut penalty by ref Michael Duffy when Alan Dillon was hauled down in the square but Alan Freeman was again on the mark soon after, this time from play, to put us two clear.
Neil Douglas, in the NUIG colours tonight, scored against his countymen before Andy Moran got his first of the night from play. Straight from the resultant kick-out Andy banged over his second and with twenty minutes on the clock Conor Mortimer got his first to stretch our lead to four. Conor added a second soon after and now the gap between the teams was really beginning to open up.
NUIG made their first switch at this point with one of their Mayo lads, David Gavin, coming off to be replaced by another, Ronan Rochford. Fiachra Deasmhunaigh got their third point soon after but Andy Moran had the last say before the short whistle when he finished an attack up through the middle with his third point of the evening to leave us 0-8 to 0-3 in front at half-time.
Like they did in the first half, NUIG got the scoreboard moving first after the break with Fiachra Deasmhunaigh scoring his second point of the evening. We then made our first substitutions of the evening, a double one at that with Seamus O’Shea replacing kid brother Aidan (this is becoming a family habit – he came on for young Conor against GMIT a few weeks back) while Cillian O’Connor made his first appearance in a Mayo jersey since becoming the 2011 Young Player of the Year when he replaced Andy.
Conor then got our first point of the second half, a score immediately added to by Barry Moran and then Kevin McLoughlin weighed in with his first of the evening (first of the year, in fact) to stretch our lead to seven. Another Conor free followed and now it began to look all too easy.
The bench emptying continued with Eoghan Reilly and Colm Boyle coming on in place of Ger Cafferkey and Richie Feeney. The scoring continued too, with Alan Dillon being hauled down and Conor obliging from the free to notch his fifth point of the evening with ten to go.
Alan Freeman – who had enjoyed a successful evening – then gave way to young Evan Regan but shortly afterwards it was Evan’s Ballina teammate David Clarke, who’d had a very quiet time of it up till then, who had to move smartly to pull off a point-blank save from a quickly taken NUIG free.
The game then petered out rather tamely with only one more score, a point from the impressive Lee Keegan to seal an emphatic ten-point win and the county’s third FBD title on the trot.
Kevin McLoughlin was named Man of the Match tonight, an accolade that PJ reckoned was well deserved especially in light of his second half performance. PJ was also impressed with the performances put in by the likes of Alan Freeman, Andy Moran, Conor Mortimer and Lee Keegan.
He was far less impressed with NUIG, though, whom he said were very poor (that wasn’t the term he used but I’m in a charitable mood and so won’t repeat it here). It seems an obvious observation to make that John Maughan’s charges must have been somewhat preoccupied by their forthcoming Sigerson campaign, though they’ll need to perform far better in that tournament or else they won’t feature for too long in it.
It’s hard to know what this success means for how we’ll fare out when things get serious later on this year. It’s our third FBD title on the spin but how things panned out so very differently for us in 2010 and 2011 shows that there’s little point in trying to read anything about how we’ll do this year as a result of this latest successful pre-season campaign. The trip to New York next October is obviously nice to have in the bag at this stage but I’d say most people leaving McHale Park this evening would have been thinking less about that junket and more about all the serious football that lies ahead before the boarding passes for the flight to JFK are handed out in the back-end of the year.
Mayo: David Clarke; Keith Higgins, Ger Cafferkey, Lee Keegan (0-1); Peadar Gardiner, Donal Vaughan, Richie Feeney; Barry Moran (0-1), Aidan O’Shea; Kevin McLoughlin (0-1), Alan Dillon, Pat Harte; Alan Freeman (0-3, two frees), Andy Moran (0-3), Conor Mortimer (0-5, four frees). Subs: Seamus O’Shea for Aidan O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor for Andy Moran, Eoghan Reilly for Cafferkey, Colm Boyle for Feeney, Evan Regan for Freeman.