A win on the road in the high pressure environment of Division One is always welcome, especially one carved out against Ulster opposition. That makes today’s two-point victory over Monaghan up in Clones so welcome and not just because it leaves us well placed in the table after two rounds of games.
On the drive up today it looked as if the weather would be similar to the conditions last Sunday. When we took our seats in the rapidly filling stand, however, the day had brightened up and our biggest weather hazard from then on was being dazzled by the piercing low winter sun.
We started with a bit more conviction that we’d done the last day. They got the first score but within six minutes we had the ball in the net. Aiden Orme did incredibly well to gather possession and feed Ryan O’Donoghue who slotted it calmly to the net.
We won the resultant kick-out and Fionn McDonagh lamped it over from out on the right to give us a dream start. But Monaghan then went down the field and carved us open, McCarron palming in the goal to level it up. It was nick and tuck all the way to half-time – to the finish, in truth – and at the short whistle Monaghan led by the minimum margin.
By then we had Aidan O’Shea on the field – in place of Stephen Coen, as we sought to tighten up a defence being run ragged early on – but we also had lost Eoghan McLaughlin to what looked to be a nasty injury. There was nothing wrong with the shoulder hit on the Westport man but he landed awkwardly and it appeared that the issue was with his ankle. It’s not known yet how serious the injury is so hopefully it’s not as bad as it looked.
Ryan was to the fore for us on the scoreboard in the first half, weighing in with 1-5 of our total at that stage. As mentioned, Fionn got the first of the other three points we bagged before the break, the others coming from Diarmuid O’Connor – whose overdue return to the scorers’ list was a real peach from distance – and Conor O’Shea, who shot early and with accuracy when given possession in a central position.
The contest was still tight and tense after the break and with news filtering in about Kilmeena’s heroics at Croke Park – where, by now, victory in normal time had been snatched from their grasp – the tension levels were elevated still more. Monaghan kept the initiative, just about, ’till midway through the half. It was then, though, that we struck what proved to be the score that set us on the path to victory.
There were quick hands and there was clever movement in the lead-up to the goal. Jordan Flynn – on for Conor O’Shea early in the second half – provided the ball in and Michael Plunkett contributed the final assist for Jason Doherty who rounded Beggan and shot to the net, to edge us a point in front.
Now it was the turn of the home team to chase the game. They had plenty of possession over those final twenty minutes but all the change they got from this on the scoreboard was a solitary pointed free from substitute Conor McManus.
We followed the goal with a nice point from Conor Loftus, who’d come on for Fionn McDonagh and gave us a bit more of an attacking edge coming down the closing stretch. With time running out, we were still in front – just about – and it was then that Sean Hurson, who’d given us very little change all day, awarded us what I thought was a soft enough free. Aiden Orme went down easily enough but it was enough for the ref to whistle for a free in front of their posts and Ryan popped it over.
We then held the ball for over two minutes in injury time, at the end of which Swanny went down and wasn’t in any hurry to get back up. When they eventually regained possession, it was desperation stakes for Monaghan who poured forward once final time. They had a goal chance in a scramble inside our square but somehow we managed to keep them out, Paddy Durcan saving on the line. The final whistle came soon after.
While there was still plenty of issues with our play today, you simply can’t ignore the result. A win today was always going to be a big achievement for us and it was a win we got. To have three points on the board after two rounds makes it a great start to the campaign and we’ll now head for Croke Park in a fortnight’s time in high spirits.
Our mounting injury list is, of course, of huge concern. After the hammer blow of Tommy’s cruciate injury during the week, we lost Eoghan and Brendan Harrison (hamstring, reportedly) today. We’re just not catching a break on the injury front right now.
But Mattie will be back for the Dubs and, you’d never know, Oisín might be too. And, after the leading role he played in Kilmeena’s run to All-Ireland glory, Jack Carney will be an added option for two weeks time.
So, on balance, things could be a lot worse for us right now. We’ve started this Division One campaign in a very positive way – results-wise rather than performance-wise but this is a results business – and all we need to do now is to continue this positive run for as long as possible. If we do that, we’ll be able to turn towards the summer with a sense of renewed confidence.
Mayo: Rob Hennelly; Brendan Harrison, Padraig O’Hora, Lee Keegan; Paddy Durcan, Michael Plunkett, Eoghan McLaughlin; Conor O’Shea (0-1), Stephen Coen; Fionn McDonagh (0-1), Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1), Bryan Walsh; Aiden Orme, Jason Doherty (1-0), Ryan O’Donoghue (1-6, five frees). Subs: Aidan O’Shea for Coen, Rory Brickenden for MacLaughlin, Conor Loftus (0-1) for McDonagh. Jordan Flynn for Conor O’Shea, Donnacha McHugh for Harrison.
Who was our MOTM against Monaghan? Pick your top three performers
- Ryan O'Donoghue (32%, 774 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (14%, 339 Votes)
- Rob Hennelly (11%, 277 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (10%, 236 Votes)
- Padraig O'Hora (7%, 170 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (7%, 161 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (4%, 96 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (3%, 73 Votes)
- Aiden Orme (3%, 67 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (3%, 63 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (2%, 41 Votes)
- Eoghan McLaughlin (1%, 23 Votes)
- Rory Brickenden (1%, 20 Votes)
- Jordan Flynn (1%, 20 Votes)
- Conor O'Shea (1%, 14 Votes)
- Donnacha McHugh (1%, 13 Votes)
- Michael Plunkett (0%, 12 Votes)
- Bryan Walsh (0%, 11 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (0%, 10 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (0%, 9 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,206